Post Intelligencer, post-print

With news coming this week that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s print version may go the way of the Rocky Mountain News, we may be at the cusp of a new era in local news reporting.

The Post-Intelligencer (P-I) looks like it will shut down it’s printing presses and release an online-only version. Aside from printing and delivery, it means the P-I will also cut out reporter travel – national stories will be covered by wire services or by other sister papers in the Hearst network.

(Sidebar: Since it’s in the Hearst network, will the last printed word in the P-I have to be “rosebud”?)

There’s no dwindling market for local news, as the TV ratings show. But local daily newspapers are dinosaurs – slow-moving and cumbersome. The question is how the old media outlets adjust in a new media world. Will they see the online world as a way to stave off extinction for a few years, or will they find a way to evolve?

Chances are, the P-I – and other similar papers around the country – could do very well writing stories and posting them online. But why stop there? Online, they won’t be confined as they were on the printed page. They have multiple forms of media – audio, video, and everything in between – at their fingertips.

The dangerous trap here is thinking in terms of “media buckets” on a local level, as people have thought for decades: the TV stations are in the video bucket, the radio stations in the audio bucket, and the newspapers in the printed word bucket. There are no buckets online, so it doesn’t translate.

The end of the P-I’s print version isn’t necessarily an ending, but a liberation. The P-I can now combine printed stories about Seattle with short video news segments and podcasts. It can exist on its website as well as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Ning, and everywhere else. It can serve the people of Seattle, and be the authority on Seattle to everyone else.

The dinosaurs didn’t die out overnight, but eventually time caught up with most of them. Except for the smart ones; they learned to fly.

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