The future of newspapers — and the latest from DFM leadership

If you’re a Sentinel reader, of our online products or print, you’ll probably be interested in the latest State of the Industry talk by Digital First Media CEO John Paton.

The Sentinel is part of DFM, so when Paton describes where newspapers have to head to survive, he’s talking about us.

So here’s my Santa Cruz Sentinel version on what Paton is talking about and how it relates locally:

About a month ago, we made substantial changes to some of our comics, puzzles, advice columns that we publish in our print edition. Many readers were outraged. I received more than 600 emails, calls and letters from readers — and their reaction was a major reason we brought back two features — the Doonesbury comic strip and the New York Times Crossword.

But, looking longer term — and really, not that much longer — these moves are sort of besides the point, since newspapers, to survive in their vital community role of providing the local news coverage that people still demand, will be putting even more resources into digital, at the expense of print (there’s nowhere else we can get the revenue).

The Sentinel staff in recent years has become adept at putting digital first, and you’ll be able to see it again tomorrow (Friday, Jan. 24) with our coverage of the Mavericks big wave contest. Yes, we’ll have day-after stories and photos, but the real excitement, the most vital news coverage, will be online — to be experienced on mobile devices, our website, and through links to a wealth of resources.

All our reporters are trained to shoot, and post, short videos, which you can view on our home page — in fact, most days, I post my own short video highlighting the daily news report. They also use Twitter to provide breaking news, sports and entertainment information from our local communities. All our local news is posted up to the minute and all of these efforts represent a huge change in how we operate from just a few years ago.

And there will be more to come. As Paton points out, our digital endeavors have to lead the way, with print following. This isn’t to scare our print readers that their cherished daily newspaper in the format they’ve long enjoyed it is going to disappear tomorrow. We’ll still be bringing you local news coverage in print — although, you, our reader, can get if faster, in a far richer environment, from our digital services.


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