Life after newspapers?

October 21, 2008

Is there life after newspapers? Can newspapers experience the afterlife? Do newspapers have a pulse? If newspapers have pulses, are they flatlining? Are they even hooked up to the EKG machine?

OK, so that last question doesn’t really make sense, but the American Journalism Review has posted an online survey asking if there is a future in a post-newspaper world. If print media dies out, what will happen next?

Journalists, current and former, are encouraged to take the survey here:

Smaller in size, big in content? Rolling Stone reborn.

Smaller in size, big in content? Rolling Stone reborn.

Looks like Rolling Stone, that gargantuan tome of rock and roll times and culture among news stands, will be joining the ranks of its lesser magazine brethren by the end of this month.

The roughly 11×14-inch pub we all know and love will be converting to a smaller, more standard size common among other publications, the magazine’s publishers have announced. Their reason? A cost-cutting measure in dire days of print journalism that even the mighty Stone cannot seem to weather.

To use the rock n’ roll analogy, it’s like the arena band relegated to playing shed festivals, small theaters, and even worse, low-capacity state fairs once their glory days fade and their fame washes up. Of course, in most cases of has-been acts, the upcoming appearance at the local downtown bar is fully intentional, all part of some kind of smaller, intimate, “In Your Face” tour. *cough* can’tdrawthecrowdsanymore *cough*

That’s not to say Rolling Stone is on its way to extinction, or even to being washed up, however. Their top dogs have claimed circulation has remained strong. And to offset its more diminutive size, the magazine’s page count will actually be higher – 100 to 148 pages.

One person quoted in MSN’s coverage of the story even called Rolling Stone’s formerly large format “intimidating.”

Huh? Isn’t that what rock n’ roll is all about?

I can’t imagine how Jann Wenner, Mick Jagger or even Bob Dylan must feel.

The decline of print journalism, and the rising of its digital counterpart on the Web, has become progressively more prevalent this decade, but none more so than in the past year or two. Papers are shutting down, papers are laying off employees, papers are cutting costs at the expense of coverage.

Fast forward five to 10 years: Huh? What’s a newspaper?

So if it seems inevitable that print will soon disappear into the Internet void (or, looking at it optimistically, upgrade to the Internet), who will lead?

An editorial penned by Knight Digital Media’s David Westphal considers this. There are editors stepping down with the feeling they can’t keep up with fast-paced Web publishing. Regardless, should news outlets seek out, in specific, editorial teams that can best serve the digital age?

Pretty soon, we’ll arrive at a generation of newsroom employees who have never worked for a paper that held its own print incarnation. There might be some cub reporters in a couple of decades or so who will have never even held a newspaper in their hands.

Westphal’s analysis is here: