For nearly 150 years, Denver's Rocky Mountain News daily newspaper has been published. Today, it stopped the presses forever. The decision was made to shut down the paper by its owners the Scripps Interactive Newspapers Group. There will not be a digital-only edition. It is gone.
There has been tons of online chatter about this all day. From articles to Blog postings to sentiments on Twitter and FriendFeed. The staff over at the Rocky Mountain News even created a twenty-minute documentary titled, Final Edition, that you can view below (and I strongly recommend you take the time over the weekend to watch this piece of video). Within the video there are some profound sentiments and thoughts about how media is changing and what this can mean to our society going forward.
The shift is fast, radical and painful.
From a top-line perspective what we're seeing is mainstream mass media being uprooted by the digital channels. For the past decade, it was about mass media being the primary channel with the Internet always being left behind or an after-thought. Now that this new media channel is taking the top place within our communities and the traditional channels are falling into second and third place, there is fear and trepidation. This disruption is going to cause people to question the integrity of the new channel versus the "way things have always been." It is normal to feel this way.
What could have saved this newspaper?
The answer is surprisingly simple: readers and advertisers. While it's better to have both of those, even one would suffice. If enough people cared about reading this newspaper everyday and voted with their wallets (either by subscription or buying it at the newsstand), it would still be around. Advertisers like blasting their messages to big groups. If the readers were there, the advertisers would be there. It's just that simple. If the advertisers were there, Scripps Interactive Newspapers Group wouldn't care much about their leaseholds on printers, buildings, the economy and staff because they would be making their rake.
Blogging and the Internet did not kill this newspaper.
If you watch the documentary below, it hardly looks like their target market are the same group of people that are out there buying up all of the Amazon Kindle 2 e-book reading devices. They also don't look the type to be downloading Stanza for their iPhones. Yes, it's easy to blame Craigslist for eroding one of the primary revenue channels that newspapers had (classified ads) and yes, it's equally easy to blame it on Blogging platforms or the Huffington Post, but there is something bigger happening here. The mass population seem to be loosing their passion for newspapers and print. It's not the whole population (in fact, I love newspapers and magazine more than ever), but it is a growing majority.
Regardless of how you feel about print and the newspaper industry, it is still a very sad day.