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Media critic calls new ProJo approach a short-term solution

October 21, 2011

The astute media critic Dan Kennedy (we used to be colleagues at the Phoenix) has some thoughts on the Providence Journal’s new online approach:

The new — goodbye, — includes just the first few paragraphs of most stories. If you want to read the whole paper online, you have to subscribe to one of those miserable e-editions, a PDF-like format that is difficult to navigate and even more difficult to read. (The Journal’s implementation does seem to be slightly less miserable than others I’ve seen.) There’s an iPad version, too.

Ted Nesi, who’s been writing about the Journal for, says it’s not yet clear what access will cost after the current free trial period expires. But this is not a digital strategy — it’s a print strategy, built on the idea of downgrading the Journal’s electronic presence. Nesi and I talked last December, when the Journal announced the new direction, and what I said then seems to apply now:

“The Journal is sacrificing its website in order to bolster its print edition, which is where it makes most of its money. I understand why Journal managers are doing this, but it’s a short-term solution that could prove harmful in the long term. I also wonder whether it will even accomplish anything. Newspaper readers are skimmers, and a headline and brief synopsis of a story may be all that they want.”

The Times is proving that people will pay for a well-thought-out, reasonably priced online edition. The Globe is about to learn whether readers in Greater Boston will do the same. The Journal, by contrast, is looking backwards. It might even work — but for no more than a few years.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Don Botts permalink
    October 21, 2011 6:31 pm

    As long as there is an online combination of TV news web sites/blogs like yours or Nesi’s Notes and the local sites like the Valley Breeze, Cranston/Warwick Online, or the Patch’s, the Projo strategy fails. You can still get your news online without having to go back to print.

  2. jbetres permalink
    October 22, 2011 12:14 am

    Mr. Botts, Donnis and Kennedy are all, spot on. However, the short to medium run may be the remaining ‘future’ of the Journal and perhaps even recognized as such. That being the case this strategy makes sense for Belo et al……

  3. October 23, 2011 2:04 pm

    One note that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere: The new Projo website actually renders pretty well on a mobile device, as if the overall thinking on Fountain St. is that Projo needs a digital supplement to be competitive in the domain of smartphones and such — but that when people are at home, they should all still be reading content that’s been optimized for dead-tree, once-a-day publication.

    • October 25, 2011 5:21 pm

      Andrew, that’s a good point, but their mobile site doesn’t offer the print content – only the same short snippets that the free website now offers. They’ve cut off all access to their newspaper’s content except in the clunky, Flash-based eEdition… or on an iPad, which 92% of Americans do not own.


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