Seattle P-I Goes Online-Only

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Seattle's oldest newspaper is committing to cyberspace with an online only operation, announcing today that it will cease its print edition with the March 17 edition and become the first U.S. metro daily to switch to an online-only publication.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, known as the P-I, already operates a lively online edition that encompasses dozens of reader blogs as well as some written by the newspaper's columnists and editors. It has explored enhanced coverage online with multimedia and forums for years. Its metamorphosis to online-only is an experiment by owner Hearst Corporation, which in January announced that the P-I was losing money and was up for sale.

This leaves Seattle with the daily Seattle Times, which was in a joint operating agreement with the P-I, sharing business and advertising operations.

It's tough times for newspapers, which are seeing advertising revenue fall during a slow economy after experiencing new competition from online information outlets, most of which publish for free. However, many bloggers in particular rely heavily on the original reporting produced by traditional news outlets such as newspapers. In late February, the 149-year-old Rocky Mountain News published its last edition, and is not continuing its online operation. Hearst has also warned that its flagship San Francisco Chronicle also risks closure.

Hearst and other news organizations have been exploring other options in new technology, such as its recent work on a digital paper reader.

(More to come, after I catch up with some friends and colleagues in the P-I newsroom and around the Northwest.)

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