At the end of the war, Newspapers commit ritual suicide

Duncan Riley

As print declines, most newspapers are starting to understand that if they want a future, they must lead online. Then there's the Philadelphia Inquirer, who has decided to pull content from their website, holding it back until it hits the print edition first.

Romenesko has a copy of the memo sent to Inquirer staff. The important parts:

Beginning today, we are adopting an Inquirer first policy for our signature investigative reporting, enterprise, trend stories, news features, and reviews of all sorts. What that means is that we won't post those stories online until they're in print.

They do try and qualify the decision by stating that where a breaking story can't make the print edition quickly enough, online can take the dregs

This does not mean that we will put the brakes on the immediate posting of breaking news that puts us first in a competitive Web marketplace

Bloggers of course need to watch out

For our bloggers, especially, this may require a bit of an adjustment. Some of you like to try out ideas that end up as subjects of stories or columns in print first. If in doubt, consult your editor. Or me or Chris Krewson.

The logic of the decision is bizarre: they believe that by holding back content from the internet, more people will buy the print edition of the paper.


The decision rests on two major presumptions that fail miserably. The first is that there is a scarcity of competition therefore people who want the news will have no choice but to buy the paper. Secondly, that anything they write of substance is worthy of buying the print edition to read it first when it will either end up on their website, or will be reported on other websites. Neither hold true.

There may be only one major competitor in Philadelphia (Philadelphia Daily News) but both papers exist in a market that offers national newspapers and a world of online choice. That choice also isn't restricted to traditional media, with bloggers covering local news as well.

The internet is also replacing the notion of paying for information directly with a model that offers information for free with the support of advertising. Less people are interested in paying for the print edition of a newspaper when the information it provides, and billions of additional words are available on demand digitally for $0. No amount of pulling stories offline will change that trend. The void will not be filled by increased sales, but by increased traffic views on other sites.

Ultimately though, the care factor for the decision will be small. The Philadelphia Inquirer has just committed ritual suicide via a slow and agonizing death, and will become yet another failed title in a growing sea of dead media.

(via Jeff Jarvis)