Stop The Press

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For nearly 150 years, Denver’s Rocky Mountain News daily newspaper has been published. Today, it stopped the presses forever. The decision was made to shut down the paper by its owners the Scripps Interactive Newspapers Group. There will not be a digital-only edition. It is gone.

There has been tons of online chatter about this all day. From articles to Blog postings to sentiments on Twitter and FriendFeed. The staff over at the Rocky Mountain News even created a twenty-minute documentary titled, Final Edition, that you can view below (and I strongly recommend you take the time over the weekend to watch this piece of video). Within the video there are some profound sentiments and thoughts about how media is changing and what this can mean to our society going forward.

The shift is fast, radical and painful.

From a top-line perspective what we’re seeing is mainstream mass media being uprooted by the digital channels. For the past decade, it was about mass media being the primary channel with the Internet always being left behind or an after-thought. Now that this new media channel is taking the top place within our communities and the traditional channels are falling into second and third place, there is fear and trepidation. This disruption is going to cause people to question the integrity of the new channel versus the "way things have always been." It is normal to feel this way.

What could have saved this newspaper?

The answer is surprisingly simple: readers and advertisers. While it’s better to have both of those, even one would suffice. If enough people cared about reading this newspaper everyday and voted with their wallets (either by subscription or buying it at the newsstand), it would still be around. Advertisers like blasting their messages to big groups. If the readers were there, the advertisers would be there. It’s just that simple. If the advertisers were there, Scripps Interactive Newspapers Group wouldn’t care much about their leaseholds on printers, buildings, the economy and staff because they would be making their rake.

Blogging and the Internet did not kill this newspaper.

If you watch the documentary below, it hardly looks like their target market are the same group of people that are out there buying up all of the Amazon Kindle 2 e-book reading devices. They also don’t look the type to be downloading Stanza for their iPhones. Yes, it’s easy to blame Craigslist for eroding one of the primary revenue channels that newspapers had (classified ads) and yes, it’s equally easy to blame it on Blogging platforms or the Huffington Post, but there is something bigger happening here. The mass population seem to be loosing their passion for newspapers and print. It’s not the whole population (in fact, I love newspapers and magazine more than ever), but it is a growing majority.

Regardless of how you feel about print and the newspaper industry, it is still a very sad day.

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.


  1. It’s all just so shortsighted. Advertisers will come back. And they don’t get the right kind of engagement in any other medium than in print. Studies have shown this repeatedly. Interesting writing recently with this news and the news out of Philadelphia. Newspapers aren’t doing so badly. But the companies that run them are because there’s too much debt chasing these giant communications companies that own all the papers. Look at CanWest. It’s the debt that’s killing them.

  2. Thanks for adding that component in Arjun. I think many of us (including me!) sometimes forget the challenge it is for a major corporation to make all of these moving parts work. Debt is ahuge part of the problem.
    I also agree that print is not going anywhere soon and that the engagement is very unique. The challenge will be in how all of these media adapt and grow when more and newer media channels enter the fold.

  3. I don’t think it’s just about “advertising”. RockyMountainNews, like most dailies now, is not a reliable source of information and hasn’t been for decades so people just gradually stopped reading it.

  4. I don’t think it has anything to do with a lack of readership. Most daily newspapers are the source of local and investigative news. Without more in depth investigative reporting that dailies deliver, new stations and even the AP will not pick up on these local stories. Further, the readership was there, but it was online. In this specific situation, I believe the reason for the closure was the JOA that no longer should have existed.

  5. After watching the documentary they have posted, i thought how interesting it would be to know what percentage will learn about this paper shutting down through online channels such as blogs, twitter, email, sms/txt messaging, etc. vs. how many newspapers will be the source of information on this.

  6. In contrast to the Rocky Mountain News, it seems that at least one newspaper has its head facing the right direction. Jeff Jarvis just posted about the NY Times efforts to go hyperlocal and support community based news/journalism. Different relevance, different conversation, different revenue model. A quick quote from the post:
    “The Times is working in two neighborhoods in Brooklyn…In each of these two pilots, they’ll have one journalist reporting but also working with the community in new ways. The Times’ goal…is to create a scalable platform…to help communities organize their own news and knowledge. ”

  7. The Rocky Mountain News has been unviable for years. Let’s not forget, the RMN was one of TWO large papers in Denver.
    The Denver Post Survives.
    One of these papers should have shut down years ago (when the papers owning the companies formed a business partnership). Denver, metro pop just north of 2MM is not a city that needs two newspapers.
    The headlines purporting the RMN closing it’s doors as a result of the recession/downturn/slow economy/new media channels/changes in business atmosphere all have it wrong wrong wrong. And it’s precisely the type of false reporting–in favor of fire fanning–that has driven people away from news.
    The RMN should have ceased existing long ago. Two big papers in one medium sized town? Their closure should have happened even before the economy was up in 2005/2006.

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