The Blade could become digital-only next year
created Jul 21, 2019 - updated Feb 17, 2020 at the bottom
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.
Prior to 2018, both papers published printed versions seven days per week. In the late summer or early last fall of 2018, the PG reduced printing a paper to five days per week. 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 its website 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 because we didn't read it. More than 10 years ago, before the smartphone craze exploded, I considered holding a print newspaper to be a bizarre experience.
Maybe the broadsheet newspapers, like the Toledo Blade, should have switched to the tabloid format in the aught years. 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 [June 2019]. 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 fetches the Blade story and parses out the JSON, contained within the HTML page.
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? 20 years ago, the Blade handled digital text better.
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 attempt to read a print newspaper again.
It's almost as if the Blade is trying to turn people away from subscribing at least for digital content.
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.
Many aspects of the media world baffle me. The popularity of local TV news, and the fanatical support for print newspapers are two areas that I don't understand.
Another belief that I have expressed here on my site 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.
- use a different print format, such as tabloid or zine
- print one to three days per week
- ignore breaking news and time-sensitive stories, such as auto accidents and sports scores
- focus more on long-form, investigative, and analysis articles that are still useful months or even years later
- switch to a non-profit business model that might rely on subscribers, donations, and grants
- drop all digital products except for the website
- for paying customers, offer a website that's similar to text.npr.org but enhanced slightly
- eliminate ads on the website for paying customers
- fix/improve the RSS/Atom feed offerings
- get the journalists off Twitter and onto their own personal websites that use their own domain names
- The Blade and its journalists should embrace the open internet and eschew the silos
- use email for comments on stories or don't accept comments
- add podcasts
- add email newsletters
- learn how to use text. jeesh.
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.
Feb 17, 2020 update
For the above 2019 Post-Gazette story, the PG did not eliminate its print product entirely. The other version of that July 2019 story was correct: the Post-Gazette reduced its print product to three days per week.
Yesterday, Feb 16, 2020, I saw a flyer or a printout from the Blade at a local business, which stated that in March 2020, the Blade will reduce it's print product to two days per week.