Will the Toledo Blade Cease Printing a Paper in 2020?

The Blade could become digital-only next year

created Jul 21, 2019

Mediagazer.com link and headline:

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to phase out print operations and become digital only; from September 30, the print version will only run Thursday, Friday, Sunday

pittsburghcurrent.com - story

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will eliminate its entire print product in a move to become an all-digital publication, according to a letter obtained by the Current.

The story is confusing because aspects of the story said that the PG will print three days a week. I think that was the original story, and then it was updated with new info, which said that the PG would eliminate all print production.

John Robinson Block is the publisher for both the PG and the Toledo Blade. JRB lives in the Pittsburgh area. The PG implements major changes before the Blade by at least several months.

Both papers used to print seven days per week. In the late summer or early last fall of 2018, the PG eliminated two days of print production. In February of 2019, the Toledo Blade eliminated two days of print production.

In the fall of 2017, the Toledo Blade released its NewsSlide mobile app. The PG released its version of the app months earlier.

In the fall of 2018, the Toledo Blade switched to a new content management system that the PG had been using for at least several months.

Based upon all of this, I'm guessing that in early 2020, the Blade will become a digital-only publication, which would be unnoticeable to me. We ended our print subscription to the Blade back in 2005 or 2006.

More than 10 years ago, before the smartphone craze exploded, I considered holding a print newspaper to be a bizarre experience. We ended our print subscription around 14 years ago because we didn't read it.

Maybe the broadsheet newspapers, like the Toledo Blade, should have switched to the tabloid format more than 10 years ago. At least the tabloid format is easier to operate than the broadsheet format, in my opinion.

But I rarely pick up the Toledo City Paper, which is printed every two weeks in the tabloid format. When I do gather one, most of the time, I never open it.

Maybe the Blade should have switched to the zine format. That would have been a bold change. I would prefer that over any other print format.

If the Blade printed one to three days per week in a paper, book-like, zine format, then I would subscribe to the print product.

Does enough news exist in the Toledo area that a print product needs to be produced seven days per week? How many traffic accidents and court cases can people read?

I pay monthly for a digital-only Blade subscription. The cost was $9.99 per month, but it increased to $12.99 per month, starting last month. It's a little cheaper to pay annually, but I like the freedom to end immediately.

I created my own web app to read the Blade. I don't use ANY of the Blade's mediocre digital products directly. I use a customized version of my web-based feed reading app to consume eight Toledo Blade RSS feeds.

For stories listed in the feeds, the Blade includes only teaser text or a synopsis. Within my feed reading web app, when I click the story link to read the entire story, my Blade web reading app executes, and the app fetches the Blade story and parses out the JSON, contained within the HTML page.

The Blade's website requires client-side JavaScript to display article content. I hate that. The Blade's HTML pages use JSON text and not HTML text to deliver the story. Obviously, that means pounds of JavaScript need to be downloaded and executed on readers' computers to display ... text. WTF?

Media orgs like the Toledo Blade have failed at displaying text digitally, which sounds whacked for a newspaper. How does a newspaper fail at handling text? The Blade handled digital text better 20 years ago.

But this horrible new web setup makes it easier to parse out the desired content. My dynamically-generated versions of the Blade stories require no JavaScript. The HTML is small and lightweight, which loads fast. And I use only few lines of CSS to display the articles comfortably across all devices.

This is how subscribers should see news articles: simple, lightweight, focused on the content. Instead the Blade, like most media orgs, create horrendously bloated, slow, clunky, ad-polluted web reading experiences. This makes the print newspaper more desirable.

The Blade's digital offerings are so bad that if I could not read the Blade in my own way, then I would not subscribe to the digital Blade, or I would subscribe to the print product only, and hope that I wouldn't ignore every delivery.

It's almost as if the Blade is trying to turn people away from subscribing.

As I have mentioned many times before, my Blade web reading app probably violates the Blade's terms of service, but the Blade's website violates human decency.

Reading a single Blade article requires over 300 or 400 web requests to be made and megabytes of JavaScript to be downloaded. In my opinion, that's a security and privacy concern.

I have my own terms of service, and disgusting websites like the Blade's are prohibited from operating on my computers as the publishers desire.

Many aspects of the media baffle. The popularity of local TV news, and the fanatic support for print newspapers are two areas that I don't understand.

Another belief that I have expressed here often over the past year is that I believe that local journalism will be needed and will exist in the future, but I do not believe that local newspapers will be a part of the future media landscape. Too much archaic baggage still exists with newspapers.

New local, digital-only media startups will surface or should surface over the next 10 years. But hopefully, these orgs are not funded, managed, nor controlled by Google and Facebook.

This tweet came from a media guy who I think teaches the profession but does not practice it.

Pathetic, outrageous. The Block family should be ashamed. They’re among the worst, most classless of the remaining family newspaper owners. They lack drive, imagination and a sense of pride in journalism, civic life and America. #Pittsburgh is a great city that deserves better.

The reason why the PG and the Blade continue to operate within the family is because the other profitable family businesses subsidize the newspapers.

Allegedly, the Blade has not made a profit, since the early 1980s. Earlier this year when JRB had his late night meltdown at the PG offices, he claimed that the PG loses millions of dollars every year, and I believe that claim.

The Block family views local journalism as a not-for-profit. But it requires wealth from somewhere to keep many local newspapers alive. The Youngstown Vindicator had lost money nearly every year over the past 20-plus years, and it could not find a buyer.

The author of that tweet engaged in pointless name-calling. He proved that Twitter is the cesspool of the internet, and he offered no solutions to sustain a local newspaper.

Some things to ponder.

Text should come naturally to newspapers, but the Blade proves that given enough time, a newspaper can ruin text.

And the PG is not shutting down. It's going digital-only, which is how I have been reading the news for nearly 20 years. It's not a new thing.

Podcasts are not new. Email newsletters are not new. Digital-only is not new.

-30-