I thought the Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun made a brilliant move today, announcing that, beginning on January 1, the two newsrooms would start sharing news and sports coverage. The stated goal is to eliminate overlap and to create efficiencies. The real goal is to forge ahead boldly to help save the business.
But then I saw this, and I realized the terrible truth of exactly what business it is that they’re still trying to save:
Robert McCartney, assistant managing editor for metropolitan news at The Washington Post, said the two newspapers will be able to publish each other’s stories online, but only after the story has appeared in print in the originating newspaper.
I confirmed this directly. There will be no sharing of online content until it is first – say it with me – published in the paper.
If this were, say, 1997 and print was booming and the online division comprised just some geeks in the basement, I could almost understand this logic. But I thought we’d settled this question: Digital is the future, not an afterthought. And where will The Sun and The Post publish all this shared content anyway? News hole is shrinking rapidly. Why not make the first and most comprehensive point of sharing online?
Imagine this: a regional online powerhouse that not only would bring in huge audience numbers, but for the first time just might be big enough to start eclipsing withering print revenues. Smart regional buys for national advertisers and targeted local ads sold against the combined reporting of the two largest newsrooms in the Mid-Atlantic just might sell well, even in this recessed economy.
That won’t happen just yet, because The Sun and The Post have chosen to focus on the papers first. Here’s hoping they soon turn their attentions to building something even greater online.