June 20th, 2013

And the Fourth Estate weathers another hit: The Oregonian reduces delivery of dead tree editions in favor of going digital


And the Fourth Estate weathers another hit: The Oregonian reduces delivery of dead tree editions in favor of going digital

Okay, granted. I’m not very good at reading. And I get even worse at reading when folks are crafting roller coasters of content with excessive spin. But as near as I can deduce, The Oregonian—the major news outlet for Oregon—is reducing its physical delivery schedule in favor of focusing on more online content.

The Oregonian will continue to be published daily and sold at outlets in the Portland metropolitan area and elsewhere in the state and southwestern Washington. Home delivery will be Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, and include the Saturday edition as a bonus. The Wednesday, Friday and Sunday editions will be enhanced with more content than current editions while the Saturday newspaper will have news and a strong emphasis on sports content, along with classified advertising. Those home delivery subscribers that choose the three-day subscription option will also have access to a digital edition seven days a week. Subscribers will be informed of the new rates in early August.

And it appears that they’re reducing staff, as well.

Beginning today, employees of OregonLive.com and The Oregonian are being informed of their status in the new companies. Anderson said the company will strive throughout this process to treat all employees with the professionalism and respect that they deserve.

Ahem.

While I realize that this may tend to inspire a bit of the “dance on the graves of the dead-tree media types,” I see this as nothing but an incredibly bad thing. Why?

1) The Oregonian has failed to find a sustainable business model for keeping the public informed.

‘Nuff said. This sucks. For everyone. If a massive organization like The Oregonian can’t figure out how to make a business of publishing news, what hope do others have?

2) The Oregonian has done an admirable job of increasing its coverage of the startup scene.

I’ve been in the Portland startup scene for nearly 20 years, and this is—by far—the most attention I’ve seen The Oregonian pay to startups. Some of you may say, “If they’re still publishing online, who cares?” Well, I care. The dead-tree edition reaches a far more diverse crowd than the online edition. And that reduction in delivery is a reduction in market and potential investors for the startups here in town.

3) A reduction in staff is never a good thing.

Like it or don’t, The Oregonian is the 800 lbs gorilla news outlet around here. And the staff is full of objective journalists. Losing that sort of expertise and insight is never a good thing.

4) Any erosion of the Fourth Estate is the opportunity for checks and balances to fail.

I am not a journalist. I am not objective. I’m a blogger. I’m purely—and admittedly—subjective. I rely on the Fourth Estate to provide the objectivity, journalism, and support of checks and balances that ensure that we’re getting the best information and services possible. Again, reducing this capacity is never a good thing.

In reflection

I know. I know. I’m the first to trade barbs with traditional media. And to poke holes in their business models and what they choose to cover.

But long story short, anything that weakens The Oregonian weakens us all. And that isn’t something to be celebrated.

Good luck to those journalists who are being affected by this. I only hope that some good can come of this decision.

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7 Responses to “And the Fourth Estate weathers another hit: The Oregonian reduces delivery of dead tree editions in favor of going digital”

  1. Carmen Hill says:

    This is awful. It’s been a sad, slow decline for several years now, though. If there were a decent online alternative that would help (people like me), but there’s not. Oregon Live ain’t it. I wish The Oregonian had been forward-thinking enough to disconnect from Oregon Live way back when and develop a digital-first type publication that might have had a better chance of supporting the kind of journalism that a civilized society requires.

  2. belgium says:

    Advance Publications owns the Oregonian. They also own Advance Digital, a subsidiary arm that makes content management platform software. Hence, Oregonlive as well as Pennlive, Mlive, Gulflive etc all are on the same (ugly) web template. So, no, the Oregonian can’t be ‘forward thinking’ and disconnect from Oregonlive. Not unless it gets new owners.

  3. I do not read the dead tree edition for the big headline stories. Nope. I hear about breaking news early in am from the good old TV and listen over breakfast while I read my email & blog subscriptions. As the coffee brews, I get the dead tree paper and scan the front page stories. If something catches my eye, I’ll read that article right away. Otherwise, I save the dead tree paper for later–during lunch, when I free myself from all things digital–if only for a little while.

    As a web developer, I’m online all day. It’s almost impossible to miss a big story b/c of Twitter, etc. But at lunch, that dead tree paper is a gateway into events around the world, in-depth analyses and interesting editorials. And–key point–most of this content is not what I would have exposed myself to by searching online or following multiple links. Nope, I delve into these topics because of the utter simplicity of having that dead tree open on the table and exposed to me all at once.

    Digital is awesome. I owe my livelihood to it. But damn! The elegance, variety, and overall user experience of a good old newspaper can’t be beat. Plus, the comics!

  4. Gary Smith says:

    Good or bad, it will likely cause many current subscribers to re-think what it is they’re getting. My wife and I subscribe. I don’t read much of the so-called “dead tree” edition other than: the editorials, letters and comics. My wife reads mostly local interest articles but subscribes (in my opinion) to get the Sunday edition because of the coupons. I realize there are online coupon solutions but for some, the paper cutout kind still is king.

    Let’s face it, the Monday edition of The Oregonian is a joke. It could be printed on a single sheet. Why they still waste paper printing stock results in 6pt type is beyond me – anyone who REALLY CARES about the daily market trends is plugged in to an online source.

    Its sad to see print stories that were online yesterday (or days ago).

    It is possible that we’ll just drop our subscription completely and pick-up a Sunday at the grocery store.

  5. Jmartens says:

    “If a massive organization like The Oregonian can’t figure out how to make a business of publishing news, what hope do others have?”

    I find that to be a terribly misguided statement. Frankly, an organization like the Oregonian is the last I’d expect to figure out a revenue model. They, and the entire industry, lacks innovation and the ability to change.

    There is plenty of hope, it just doesn’t lay with the dinosaurs like The O.

  6. Rick Turoczy says:

    I think “Terribly misguided” will be what I put on my tombstone.

  7. Brad Needham says:

    To avoid the rose colored glasses effect, pull up some of those excellent examples of objective, insightful, in-depth, local stories from the Oregonian. Find who wrote those pieces. Organize a new local news startup that unabashedly states that good local news is worth supporting financially, because it’s vital to society.


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