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Going to online exclusively

July 5, 2006

The <a href=”http://www.bodegabaynavigator.com/
“>Bodega Bay newspaper announced this week that it is going to drop its print edition and continue to publish exclusively online. Seems that subscription costs cannot cover the printing costs and the publisher feels he has enough of an out-of-area audience to sustain the effort.

<a href=”http://www.bodegabaynavigator.com/
“>Bodega Bay logo
It is too early to tell whether this represents the shot heard ’round the world for newspapers. Bodega Bay is not the first publication to go exclusively online, just the latest. When one looks at Slate and Salon one has to think we still have a ways to go. But I like the concept of being the guy who builds the lemonade stand out in the middle of the desert. Very little business now, but when the road comes through you can put up a sign saying “Been in business since ….”

As the Cerritos College Talon Marks’ online subscription rate gets ever-so-close to our print distribution numbers –just a couple of hundred away with new subscribers signing up daily, even in the summer when we’re not creating new content– it gets interesting thinking about following Bodega Bay’s lead. Problem is, college newspapers exist largely because schools want a publication that can reach students.

When I look at the list of our online subscribers, I get the sense that we’re looking at more of a new audience than a repeat audience. That is not to say that we don’t have some double-dippers, but they probably represent less than half our online subscribers.

Until we get better at getting the campus community to look to our online publications for campus information we can’t afford to consider dropping online papers –even if college students don’t like to read newspapers. We built our lemonade stand eight years ago and I think we’re beginning to understand some of what it is going to take to do that. In any case, we’re closer than those who haven’t built their stands yet.

And we can surely train students to work for those future online-only publications.

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