We learned while I was still with E.W. Scripps, Inc. that the JOA between the Cincinnati Post and the Cincinnati Enquirer would expire and not be renewed at the end of 2007. There was some speculation then that the paper would die. It looks like, it is going to die.
Not surprising, of course. It would be too expensive for a weak paper to gear up again to print and distribute a paper product.
Still, I said it then, and I’ll say it now: Why let it die? The Post could be an incubator for the greatest experiment yet in online journalism. Why not use what life it has left to switch readers to a robust, interactive, user-focused web site? The kind of site that would have a fighting chance to thrive.
The marketing power of even a weak daily newspaper is enormous, so you could promote the crap out of the new site (plus the effort would create a lot of buzz and interest around town). All of the worries newsrooms and advertising people have about cannabilizing the print product — worries that frankly hold back newspapers from creating the kind of web sites they should — would be irrelevant. You could leverage all your existing advertising relationships, making it easier to switch revenue to online. You could keep most of your best editorial talent. You would be a hero to readers who understand the value of having an alternative to a Gannett-owned monopoly.
Scripps has the additional advantage of owning a strong TV station in the Cincinnati market.
What a great time to experiment with the notion of what happens when a print paper dies, and can the newspaper survive as an online only product?
This is a huge opportunity lost for Scripps, and the industry, to just let the Post die.