Last week was a great week for newspaper eulogies. Denver’s Rocky Mountain News folded after failing to find a buyer, and The San Francisco Chronicle announced staff reductions and fueled fear in the city that the paper might also close if it doesn’t find a buyer. It was also a great week for new attempts to monetize Internet news. Newsday announced that it adopting a subscription-based model, something that has not seen much success in the past, but is being considered more and more. The most interesting news, especially here in San Francisco, is the announcement that the Chronicle’s (current) ownership group, Hearst Corp., is launching its own e-reader.
Kenneth Bronfin (picture), president of Hearst Interactive Media, told Fortune this week that e-readers will play a large role in the company's future.
Hearst plans to sell the e-readers to publishers, who will determine their own pricing plans.
E-readers have not really been embraced by newspapers, so this is exciting. One of the advantages of publishing periodicals on e-readers is that they cost half as much to produce than print does, doing away with one of print's main weaknesses.
A weekly subscription to the SF Chronicle costs twice the amount to print and deliver than it receives in subscription revenue.
Perhaps this is the symbolic hinge week in the history of the press, with a major publisher both announcing the possible end of its print product and its investment in the way information will be read in the future. No matter what, the symmetry is nice.
Moore’s Law still has a lot of work to do before it'll be cheap enough for a lot of people to use e-readers, or even jump to smartphone data plans. But now that the number of companies producing the tech is growing, adoption is getting closer.