Don’t go backward, newspapers!

By Steve Outing

Earlier this afternoon I tossed off a Twitter post that needs more than 140 characters to explain what I’m thinking. … What raised my disgust was this memo posted on Romenesko by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s managing editor, explaining a new policy to stop posting “signature investigative reporting, enterprise, trend stories, news features, and reviews of all sorts” on the website first. (Breaking news still goes to the website right away.)

OK, I understand the thinking: The print product is suffering and this is a way to give it an edge — to encourage people to think that there’s some good stuff that you’ll get first by sticking with print.

But this is an argument that has been decided (or so I thought), so it’s disheartening to see a major newspaper go backward.

Jeff Jarvis said it nicely and succinctly in a Twitter post: “Insanely, suicidally stupid. If we keep out the gas stations, we’ll force them to ride horses, damnit.”

What’s long held back the newspaper industry and gotten it in the current mess has been holding back online innovation that might impact the legacy product (print). The kind of serious innovation that might have avoided the turmoil we’re now seeing among newspapers (especially larger metros like the Inquirer) could only take place with an attitude of “Let’s completely forget about the print edition and just try to build the best damn online service possible.”

But the industry didn’t do that, for the most part, instead settling for incremental innovation that wouldn’t upset things too much on the legacy side. That’s exactly the thinking that’s in this Inquirer memo.

I find this memo so discouraging.

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!