Elephant Diaries: What Happens When a Newspaper Stops Printing Itself

Alan Mutter argued yesterday that newspapers’ print products are central to driving traffic to their web sites – that a significant fraction of the web audience overlaps print, and that the loss of print “stripped of the advantages that formerly differentiated it from all other rivals, would become just one of thousands of URLs competing for attention on the busy, noisy web.”

In the comments, Howard Owens offered a counterfactual:

The Kansas City Kansan doubled online traffic as soon as the print edition went away.

The Kansan stopped printing in mid-January, going to an all-Web delivery of its product. How has that worked out?


  1. I went to the KansasCityKansan website, and it…uh…sucks. I learned that the paper is the “voice of Wyandotte County since 1921” and not a hell of a lot else. Not saying it’s causal, but the site looks like one of those cheesy MSFT “FrontPage” templates from 1997. Right down to the use of bad smiling pirate clip art like that seen at:


  2. Doubling online traffic isn’t necessarily a good argument against Mutter’s arguments.
    If the Journal stopped publishing a print version and our online traffic “doubled,” it would still only reach a tiny fraction of the people that once read the printed version.
    And without a printed version, of course more newspaper readers would go online. In Albuquerque, and many other cities, there wouldn’t be any other options.
    Not saying anything about whether going solely online for publication is a good idea, just that the “counterfactual” has some serious fallacies.

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