This is how the world ends.
Republic Media parent Gannett Co., Inc., announced a series of initiatives Wednesday including a new pay-for-online subscription model that executives project will return the company to a growth mode.
Gannett is spinning this move as an "inflection point"; it's a return-to-growth mode in which they stop simply winding down the paper and try to actually increase revenue.
Give me a break.
Gannett's move is the fulfillment of a prediction that I made in 2007.
Conventional wisdom holds that the drop newspaper advertising revenue will be offset by increases in Internet advertising revenue. Unfortunately, a close look at the numbers reveals that the conventional wisdom is wrong.
That prediction come true and web revenue comes nowhere near offsetting lost print revenue. Naturally, other companies have been in the same boat and have taken the logical step of trying to sell their web content. For most of them, it's been a disaster.
You will recall that the Tribune took a series of drastic steps before its rapid collapse. One of those steps was charging for its web content.
The bottom line is that there are just too many sources of information. People don't pay for web content.
Newspapers have also made a mistake of accentuating their weakness. The easiest thing to find on the web is opinion pieces. EJ Montini and Linda Valdez confer no unique advantage for the Republic. The Republic's advantage is news gathering, yet the the major papers have tried to compete with the web by highlighting opinion writers and cutting down on actual news coverage. They are playing to their weakness. Montini costs the paper a great deal of money and his opinion pieces are marginal compared to other web content...why highlight a dinosaur?
The subscription service will be a disaster. Web hits will plummit. The buzz factor will disapear and the Republic will no longer be the go-to source for news.
Yes, it's an inflection point. But not the one that Gannett Brass hopes it will be.