Newspaper Goes Online-Only

It’s not completely true that what happens in Wisconsin happens everywhere, but is a completely online edition the best or worst scenario for small local newspapers for survival?

Just An Online Minute… Wisconsin Newspaper Goes Online-Only

The Capital Times, an afternoon daily in Madison, Wis., this weekend folded its print edition and became an online-only newspaper.

“Today marks our last edition as a traditional daily newspaper of the sort Americans knew in the 19th and 20th centuries,” the paper announced Saturday in an editorial. “Starting tomorrow, The Capital Times will be a daily newspaper of the sort Americans will know in the 21st century.

Given today’s challenging market for newspapers, it’s not surprising that an afternoon paper like The Capital Times would fold in print. Afternoon dailies have been fading away for decades, victims of evening TV news broadcasts and cable TV long before the Internet struck a death blow.

In fact, in some ways, The Capital Times’ shift to the Internet is good news. Before the advent of the Web, evening papers simply closed and didn’t resurface in other forms. And even the Madison newspaper isn’t completely abandoning print; it will still publish a free print newsweekly and a free weekly entertainment guide.

Still, it appears inevitable that more and more newspapers will shift resources to the Web. Consider, figures released today by the Audit Bureau of Circulations show that most top dailies have lost ground recently. For the six months ending March 30, circulation at The New York Times fell to around 1.08 million, marking a 3.9% drop. At the Los Angeles Times, circulation fell 5.1% to around 774,000, and the Dallas Morning News saw a 10.6% drop to approximately 368,000.

Of the 20 largest newspapers in the country, only two saw gains — The Wall Street Journal (up 0.4% to around 2.07 million) and USA Today (up 0.3% to around 2,28 million). Some other, smaller newspapers to show gains include the San Jose Mercury News, which grew 1.69% to around 231,000 and The Cincinnati Enquirer, which was up 2.93% to around 206,000.

How’s the online Feature section making out? Based on the number of Art & Food articles, they seem to be getting a good amount of space.