Is The Seattle Times Next?

ON DEATHWATCH IN SEATTLE – The evidence continues to mount that today (Tues., March 10) may be the last day in the print life of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. This is, after all, the deadline that parent company Hearst set for a buyer everyone knew would never come. P-I employees, who were offered a “last” visit to the newspaper’s iconic globe on Monday, are speculating that Tuesday will be spent producing the paper’s final edition and that the new, online-only P-I would be launched on Thursday.

The bust up of a Seattle icon?
The bust up of a Seattle icon?
There isn’t a whole lot to add that hasn’t already been said. Both NPR-affiliate radio stations, KPLU and KUOW are paying last respects with three-part series on the P-I, its history and impact on Seattle. Meanwhile, a day after a former Seattle Times staffer ranted about the lack of attention shown by the P-I’s chief rival, the Times finally weighed in with a straight news story.

The lack of sentimentality is not surprising. The Times actually cast an eye toward the P-I’s imminent demise in the newspapers’ shared Sunday editions (produced by the Times, per the joint operating agreement (JOA) between the two) by promoting its week’s content on every section cover. The effort, of course, was aimed at capturing P-I subscribers once their newspaper stopped publishing.

(It’s interesting to note that the eagle is part of The Seattle Times logo; I strongly suggest it be replaced with a vulture).

Of course, once the P-I print edition ceases to exist, the Times immediately replaces it on the newspaper deathwatch list. The Times is hemorrhaging money and burdened by debt incurred by its purchase of newspapers in Maine and its costly court battle with Hearst in an attempt to escape the JOA. The Times also has allowed many of its best writers to leave via buyouts, continued a stodgy approach heavy on “project stories” that are not well-read and don’t resonate with younger readers, and is losing the stimulus of competition from a newspaper that was decidedly more plucky than it.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I worked at the Times for 17 years, then left 10 years ago for a series of Internet ventures).

It’s also not entirely surprising that Seattle could fall so quickly from one of the country’s few two-newspaper cities to one of its first no-newspaper cities. It is, after all, one of the most wired cities in the U.S., the home of Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks. I mention Starbucks because it is the place one gets wired (on caffeine) and wireless (Internet connections, that is).

Question is: Once the domino tumbles in Seattle, how quickly will others then fall?

4 thoughts on “Is The Seattle Times Next?

  1. CJ

    If younger readers is what is most important to print newspapers then failure is imminent and unavoidable. Younger readers don’t read, or at least not actuality and current affairs in the way they used to be read. They still use their eyes but they have shorter attention spans, are much more selective and more global in their thinking. Younger readers invariably also spend more time online than seated on the couch poring over printed materials. A concise and readable online presence is crucial and in fact inevitable for any print media planning to survive, only the old guard and the sentimental have the stomach for print.

  2. glennnelson

    Newspapers believe younger readers are important; if not, they should. They are the future newspaper consumers. For now, you cannot write off the “the old guard and the sentimental” because they are the current consumers. If you don’t have them, you have nothing and you are out of business right now. The way you appear to dismiss “the old guard and the sentimental” is missing the point of why people buy newspapers. One is the browsability of newspapers, which has not been close to being replicated on the Web. I may not care about, say, city government, but one day I may be browsing through a newspaper and discover a story about city government that either is relevant, interesting or heart-wrenching and I’ll read it. You don’t get that much online, where you have to have destinations. I agree that younger people think more globally (not today’s younger people; young people throughout generations), but eventually they get older and need information relevant to their crowded lives. Part of winning over “newspaper readers” (whether that’s print or online) is teaching younger people the value of what newspapers have to offer. Finally, I just don’t accept that younger people these days aren’t as curious about the world as they used to be. We just need new ways to engage them and, on that count, I think newspapers have failed miserably.

  3. Susan Pritchard

    I heard on KIRO and a co-worker said they heard it on KOMO radio that has launched an online petition to save the landmark globe atop the Seattle PI building.

  4. Very cool dude! I found your blog through Google searches and I really love what you are doing! The effort you have put into your posting is awesome and I hope you keep up with it! Thank you!

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