With Print Dying, Online Newspapers Herald the Future

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When the Christian Science Monitor went online-only in October 2008, it signaled a changing of the guard. The 100-year-old newspaper acknowledged that people are more apt to log on to their computers than they are to pay for a print subscription. The move was clever and fast, and it exuded a glimmer of what was to come.

Shortly thereafter, PC Magazine stopped the presses on its magazine and focused its energies on online journalism. Now, many newspapers face the grim specter of closing due to decreased readership, scant advertising dollars, and the digital revolution. Time Magazine singled out 10 major newspapers that are hemorrhaging money and may close print production in the near future. Reporter Douglas McIntyre consistently turns to the paper's Web sites as the business's saving grace: If more newspapers face reality and look to the World Wide Web, there may be hope yet.

It's a sad prospect that many old-school reporters are struggling with. David Carr of the New York Times posits that if the newspaper industry gathered together and held hands -- antitrust laws be damned -- there's a chance the medium could survive (some believe this is akin to "humping a corpse"). Carr suggests charging users for customized subscriptions and fighting for dollars from news collectors such as Google News.

Squeezing pennies from Google might be tough, but the future of customized online subscriptions is already at the door. The Times itself introduced two innovative tools on its Web site that allow readers to share the articles they enjoy and, much like Google News, check out various sources for front-page stories. The services, called TimesPeople and TimesExtra, respectively, bring a Web 2.0 perspective to an antiquated industry and may help the Times when its advertising dollars run out.

Across the Atlantic, the Guardian is also toying with novel methods of integrated users with its news. Today the Guardian announced Open Platform, a content-sharing service that will allow users to build their own applications in return for carrying Guardian advertising, and the Data Store, which hosts a plethora of data collected by Guardian editors, open for the public's use. The theory is that the Guardian would then be "woven into the fabric of the Internet" and become an inescapable force of news, customized journalism, and reader interactivity.

There's no question about journalism's ability to survive. It will make it. Whether it be by monstrous organizations or homemade blogs, the news will always be found. What most people have to get used to, now that e-Ink and URLs are here to stay, is the medium. While it's sad to see the old bastions go -- especially due to the massive staff cuts such changes imply -- now is a unique epoch in which we can witness the future of how events are reported.

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