The recently installed CEO of Dean Singleton's MediaNews chain of newspapers isn't shy about saying that his papers and a group that takes in the Daily News, Daily Breeze and a bunch of other smaller papers in SoCal and NorCal, including the San Jose Mercury and will be changing. John Paton is a former reporter and editor, and a digital evangelist who also at one time led the group that owns La Opinion. Inevitable in his MediaNews calculus is that, someday, the business logic for publishing newspapers in print will go away, to be replaced by a digital product written in part by reporters and in part by the community and aggregated from other sources.From today's New York Times:
The second-largest newspaper chain in America is now being run by someone who thinks that print is, if not exactly dead, dying a lot faster than anyone thought.
Mr. Paton has heard all about how choosing digital revenue over print revenue is like choosing dimes over dollars. He points out that the print dollars have dropped by more than half in the last five years and perhaps it is time to start “stacking the dimes.” He also notoriously proposed that real transformation would happen only if the industry were willing to “stop listening to newspaper people.”
Oddly enough, that’s exactly what he is, albeit one who has come to very different conclusions about what the newspaper industry needs to do to survive. This includes the idea of eventually ceasing to put out a print paper altogether.
“Every time I talk about this, people jump out of windows, so I want to be careful about what I say,” he said.
It casts in a new light the moves made in the past month to combine key editing functions and leadership at the Daily News, Daily Breeze and Press-Telegram. I think they're a long way from discontinuing print at the SoCal papers -- for one thing, the websites aren't nearly robust enough in content or technology to become the whole product. But the clock is ticking.