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"To stop the red ink, newspapers need to get rid of the ink altogether. It's high time for online-only operations." This is what Rick Wartzman, director of the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University, wrote for Business Week Magazine this week. By getting rid of ink-and-paper editions, newspapers could shed current "tentative, halfway initiatives" on the web, he wrote. The editor of the LA Times told him that his organization could put out a profitable online-only edition with only 275 employees, 150 of whom would be in the newsroom. (There are currently 625 reporters and editors around the world, down from more than 1,000 a couple of years ago.) Wartzman concedes that with such a small staff, the Times would miss out on some important stories. The Times would be reluctant to take the step to all-online, because it would walk away from more than $500 million in print-ad revenue, said the editor. Ironically, Business Week itself should probably think of going 100 percent online. I wrote for the publication from 1964 to 1973 and read it regularly until the last six years, when I have looked at it only sporadically. I saw a copy last night (March 12) and was shocked: it is so thin that it is hard to imagine that it can be profitable.

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Comments

JustWondering March 14, 2009 @ 8:11 a.m.

There is nothing more enjoyable to me than to sit down with a GOOD Sunday morning paper. Sadly, sometimes, this means going out and finding a copy of the LA or NY times in San Diego.

Sitting down at the table holding my newspaper, sipping a cup of coffee, and looking over the top of my glasses as my wife brings me a heartly Sunday morning, err a, mid-morning meal, is American as apple pie.

Call me "old fashioned" but discussing current events, as a family huttled around a 19 inch computer screen, just wouldn't be the same.

Now I wonder if my son is done with the sports section?

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Don Bauder March 14, 2009 @ 9:56 a.m.

Response to post #1: Ditto. My wife and/or I drive 10 miles each way to pick up a NY Times and Wall Street Journal every day. We read them in the evening by the fireplace, listening to music. When I have time, I do the Times crossword puzzles, particularly Sunday. HOWEVER. We represent an old generation that is dying out. Newspaper managements have to keep that in mind, just as managements of opera and symphony companies, and of art museums, have to keep it in mind. Best, Don Bauder

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Ponzi March 14, 2009 @ 10:38 a.m.

"We represent an old generation that is dying out. Newspaper managements have to keep that in mind, just as managements of opera and symphony companies, and of art museums, have to keep it in mind."

Don, that was an eye opening statement.

Do you feel the same demise of arts and culture is occurring in Europe? It seems this is a decline of the American culture. Because when I thought about your statement, I realized that people in Europe still read newspapers and the arts are very popular. Yet the arts, education and reading is suffering in America. This is not a positive trend.

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Don Bauder March 14, 2009 @ 12:49 p.m.

Response to post #3: Newspapers in foreign countries are having troubles, too, but they are not as bad off as newspapers in the U.S. The same is true with European arts groups: they have troubles, but they aren't as deep as those of our arts groups. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 March 14, 2009 @ 1:13 p.m.

There is nothing more enjoyable to me than to sit down with a GOOD Sunday morning paper. Sadly, sometimes, this means going out and finding a copy of the LA or NY times in San Diego.

Response to post #1: Ditto.

I'll third this statement.

Sitting back in a chair with a cup of java, relaxing and reading a paper is awesome.

Many times I will go out for breakfest by myself and bring the paper to read while I relax and eat.

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Josh Board March 14, 2009 @ 3:30 p.m.

I agree with these statements. In fact, my girlfriend (and all girlfriends before her), have complained that I sit at the table reading newspapers. Even when we go out to have breakfast or lunch (never dinner, though). Nothing like talking about some weird news item that happened in Germany or Florida, or a comic book that sold for a billion dollars, that little Aunt Betty found in her basement, and "thought I threw all those damn things away when my kids moved out!"

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Don Bauder March 14, 2009 @ 4:04 p.m.

Response to post #5: Every day, I read the NY Times online, then also read the ink-and-paper edition. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder March 14, 2009 @ 4:08 p.m.

Response to post #6: Ink-and-paper may go extinct in the form of daily newspapers and magazines, but ink-and-paper is not going away. If one is tackling a convoluted subject that has to be read two or three times, online just doesn't work -- at least for me, it doesn't. When preparing columns and blog items for the Reader, I find interesting things online, then print them out so I can go over them carefully, usually making notations in the margins, etc. Best, Don Bauder

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Sportsbook March 15, 2009 @ 7:48 p.m.

In Southern Ca. it is easy to imagine a paper free world (gasp!) However in places where public transportation is still readily used, grabbing the paper to read n the train/subway/bus etc is still popular. (Especially among those who travel without their laptop)

I do not see print going away entirely, and I HOPE this doesn't happen in my lifetime, but I can forsee a time when papers print a paper edition 1 or 3 times aweek to help costs.

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Don Bauder March 15, 2009 @ 9:20 p.m.

Response to post #9: Yes, in metro areas in which commuters regularly take trains, newspapers normally have higher market shares. This is often in the East. I think, sadly, that some big papers will be going part-online, part-print (maybe just Sundays) sooner than we think. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder March 16, 2009 @ 11:49 a.m.

POST-INTELLIGENCER TO GO TOTALLY ONLINE: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer will go 100 percent online, its corporate parent, Hearst Corp., announced today (March 16). Its last print edition will be printed tomorrow. In January, Hearst said that the Post-Intelligencer, then the number two paper in Seattle, would go on sale, and would stop printing within 60 days if no buyer were found. The paper will probably only retain a small portion of its current staff, say analysts. Best, Don Bauder

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pascal March 16, 2009 @ 1:52 p.m.

Response to post #10: "...some big papers will be going [to]... (maybe just Sundays)..."

Don, I think that's really important to emphasize. There's a reason our Sunday papers are still packed with advertising inserts-- It's the one day we all have to sit down at our leisure and thoroughly read our newspapers. And businesses know their inserts will get read on that day also. I think that's a key element that would make Sunday-only newspapers still very profitable. Especially when their USPS mail-only competitors for that insert business cannot deliver to the home on Sundays, when people take the time to read that stuff!

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Don Bauder March 16, 2009 @ 2:36 p.m.

Response to post #12: Good point. However, I don't think papers make that much money on inserts. They are profitable, yes, but not as profitable as display ads. Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell March 16, 2009 @ 8:25 p.m.

I don't see how newpapers could justify the cost of maintaining a printing plant for a Sunday-only paper. How would the paper staff a printing plant that publishes a newspaper only one day per week? If the U-T goes to Sunday only, maybe the Sunday paper could be printed in Tijuana by one of the Mexican papers.

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Sportsbook March 16, 2009 @ 8:40 p.m.

Maybe papers will contract with someone like The Wall Street Journal, USA today, NYTimes to utilize their presses so a west coast edition can still be printed? Anything to generate income I would think. I am not so sure any of the papers here in so. Cal would go to a one day a week product, unless the co. in question was in dire straits(thinking LA times) or in a two paper market, as we have seen. That said, I don't see the LA times folding into a one day a week print version in the coming any time in the near future.

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Don Bauder March 17, 2009 @ 7:05 a.m.

Response to post #14: Good point. I think if someone bought the paper with the idea of going mainly online and publishing Sunday-only, the printing would be done at a remote site, probably by satellite, and the buyer would try to make money on the Mission Valley building for real estate purposes. Or if the U-T can't sell the paper, and decides to continue, it may go mainly online and print the Sunday paper at a remote site. The online staff would have to be housed somewhere: if it remained at the current U-T site, part of the building might be rented out to commercial tenants. It might be more economical to move the online staff and sell the building (well, sell the 99-year lease) in its entirety. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder March 17, 2009 @ 7:11 a.m.

Response to post #15: You may be right: the shift to mainly- or entirely-online won't come quickly. But then again, ponder this: the collapse of daily papers came much faster than anyone thought it would. So the attempted solution might come quickly, too. Best, Don Bauder

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Ponzi March 18, 2009 @ 12:03 p.m.

I was doing some research today and realized how much information in on the web servers of existing newspapers. i was looking up a person and found the obituary in the NC Times from 2003. It would be a great loss if any newspaper that has a web presense to close because all that information would vanish. Just wondering if anyone has looked into the opportunity to collect and store (clone) all of the newspapers web pages.

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Don Bauder March 18, 2009 @ 2:45 p.m.

Response too post #18: I don't know the answer to your question but agree it would be a good idea. Best, Don Bauder

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valueinvestingisdead April 2, 2009 @ 7:03 a.m.

This would be devastating. There is nothing better than reading the paper. Let's hope this doesn't happen.

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Don Bauder April 2, 2009 @ 7:45 a.m.

Response to post #20: Clearly, newspapers have to come up with a new strategy -- in today's patois, a new model. More two-way communications with readers would definitely help. The papers should be able to make good money selling information from their archives. There is more work to be done on improving online products. Best, Don Bauder

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