It died today. The Rocky Mountain News of Denver, Colorado published their last issue this morning.
What’s that got to do with backcountry skiing? Some of you younger guys might not even remember when newspapers (and to some extent magazines) used to be the only way we got details about current events, including backcountry accidents, travel reports and snowpack trends. That of course changed radically in the last fifteen or so years, as the internet took over more and more such duties.
Now advertisers realize that web publishers are viable and well trafficked, and they’re willing to support those of us who get visited (Every day we here at HQ are thankful that includes WildSnow…)
At the same time, spending on newspaper advertising fell almost 10% in 2007, than dropped another 17% in 2008! As they say, follow the money.
Prior to our current economic woes, analysts were saying we’d see a DOUBLING in web advertising spend by 2011! Now they’ve dialed back that jaw dropping bit of fortune telling and say we’ll still see advertising dollars shifting to the web, only at a slower rate. Still, growth is growth. As little as 5% a year is probably all WildSnow needs to remain successful.
Thus, I truly believe that today’s event of the “Rocky” closing down is a portent of where publishing is going. It stomps home the point that web publishers don’t have to buy ink and paper, so we have an inherent advantage. More, the closing of the Rocky shows that people simply find newspapers less and less important to their daily existence — again, because the web provides what newspapers used to have a monopoly on.
The downside to all this is that publishing and associated revenue is becoming fragmented. Instead of one or two newspapers with a hard working staff, supported by an organized approach to news gathering and relatively strong ethics (compared to the web, anyway), you now have the choice of dozens or even hundreds of websites competing for your attention on subjects such as skiing. Pick a more mainstream topic, and your choices become astronomical, (e.g., 74,100,000 Google hits for a search on “movie reviews.”)
Thus, the trick is now how people decide where on the web to get their info. My theory is that the “magazine” style website will easily take the place of paper newspapers, and may provide the vital function of a trusted and human edited “news aggregator” with some modicum of focus — as opposed to efforts such as Google News (which does amazingly well, though somewhat scattered and still dependent on authority websites). Perhaps the Rocky will do that with their website. Or perhaps automated news aggregators will just pluck headlines from ten million blogs, and that’ll be the news of the future?