As a former newspaper reporter and editor, I feel little empathy for those in the newspaper business who don't see the inevitable coming.
There's one way out of this mess for the Times. It is a bold, gutsy, and, some would say, foolish way, at least initially: The Times—here's the irony—should go all-digital. That's right. It should abandon newsprint and force everyone to the Web. It should make a stand against Google, using its About.com division—something with real growth, and which is actually working out despite the $410 million in debt taken down to buy the thing—to lead the way. Maybe it should even take the revolutionary step of blocking Google from accessing its content, something no one else is willing to do. Or maybe it should at least say, “This is the deal: You want our stuff, you must share much more with us than you are willing to share with others.” It is worth it to preserve value for the future, to make it so our kids don't think, Let me go to Google for all the news that's fit to print. Heck, in another couple of years they won't even know that the New York Times exists as anything but private-label news source for an Internet portal.
Peoria Pundit, another former reporter and editor, adds his thoughts today.
It won't be long before an aggressive company hires a few good reporters to cover a particular niche topic, say, Illinois politics, or Central Illinois tech, and posts the content regularly on a slick website. Voila, running a newspaper without the overhead. I don't think the consumer will mind one bit. Even though I read tons of newspapers every day, I don't subscribe to a single one.