Holding Back The ‘Good Stuff’

Apr 1, 2009 by

It’s called “print exclusive” and the plan by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune might be the start of where print newspapers head.

Basically, the paper is withholding certain stories from the the web until they appear in the print edition.  Those stories focus on great features, investigative pieces and non-breaking news stories.

Breaking news and daily stories and such will remain the first domain of the web, as they should be.

It’s where we’re headed, and I think we need to move a little more aggressively toward it.

Editor Nancy Barnes, in a note to readers, said, “I’m not sure anyone knows what the right answer is for our business right now. What I do know is that good journalism, the kind an enlightened community like the Twin Cities demands and appreciates, cannot be produced for free. I also believe that we, as an industry, have to drive more value into our printed papers so long as we continue to deliver news that way. So starting last week, we began experimenting with giving some of the best of our journalism to you, our paying print customers, first.”

I think that last sentence should be one of those “duh” moments. I’m not sure why it hasn’t hit others yet.

Why should I pay for something I can get for free?

The print newspaper of the future, if it will exist that is, must focus on in-depth, well-written reporting and storytelling (not lies, but gripping reading.)

“Jen” from Editor and Publisher’s Fitz and Jen column, summed it up perfectly: “Using the print edition as a vehicle for in-depth analysis is something that newspapers should be doing more. Break news online, aggregate local content, upload video, but please don’t forget the very people, the print subscribers, who are footing the bill. They deserve something extra.”

I’ve always advocated newspaper should charge for online content.No one, myself included, knows how that will play out.

But maybe one option toward that end is to create a specialized online version that includes those “print exclusives.” If you want it all, in whatever version/form, you pay for it.

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