Imagine there’s no newspaper…

Off the bike again:

The second live blog I mentioned yesterday was during a summit of newspaper industry CEOs, who for the most part seem to be in denial about the speed with which their companies are circling the drain.

You can read about it lots of places, including…

…and what must be dozens of others by now (counting my own humble spot right here).

Some questions occurred to me as I was reading some of the sound and fury this morning, wondering when we will start seeing newspapers successfully (profitably) migrate to the online world. So far I haven’t seen anyone pointing to a real success story.

  • If there were no newspaper in a place like Cedar Rapids, for the sake of argument, where would a place like Hy-Vee or Cassill Motors or the local banks and credit unions advertise?
  • Those advertisers would still need to reach their customers. Would they count on customers to just find their websites when the need arose, or would they be willing to buy online ads where customers could be encountered on a daily basis?
  • Would customers be drawn to a news site that included context-sensitive advertising with stories of interest? Would they go there for the promise of digital coupons for cents off their next purchase of baked beans or toilet paper?
  • If there were no newspaper to compete with the online news product for advertising dollars, would online advertising be more profitable for the news company to sell? Will the papers have to die before the companies can thrive? Aren’t they competing largely with themselves at this point?
  • Will newspapers figure it out before someone else grabs those elusive bucks?

Judging by some of the latest commentary, we may find out in the next few months.

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