Nieman Foundation at Harvard
The Worcester Sun wants to bootstrap paywalled hyperlocal digital into a Sunday print product
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Sept. 3, 2013, 4:10 p.m.
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   September 3, 2013

You may have seen Paul Farhi’s interview with Jeff Bezos in today’s Washington Post, the newspaper he’s buying for $250 million. If you saw it in print, you found it on Page A1, on the left below the fold. If you saw it on, who knows how you found it — Twitter? a Google Alert? an email newsletter? — but once you did, you saw a URL that started with /lifestyle/style/ and “Style” emblazoned on top of the page.

Since when is an interview with the new billionaire owner of a newspaper a Lifestyles/Style story?

Old newspaper hands know that the Post’s Style section has long had an unusual-for-American-newspapers relationship with the paper as a whole — sometimes covering the same political stories that an A-section reporter does, but from a different angle. Style has been a big Post asset. But that unusual divide isn’t really the issue here: It’s that the story in the print paper actually ran on A1, not in Style. So if it’s a business story on A1, why does it get a big Style banner?

Answering this question falls somewhere short of a national crisis, but it still got some smart people riled up. A cast of characters: Dan Sinker runs Knight-Mozilla OpenNews; Alex Howard writes from D.C. on nerdy issues; J. Freedom du Lac works at the Post; Jacob Harris codes for The New York Times.

So why’d it run there? Turns out the answer has to do with where Paul Farhi’s desk is:

Some folks didn’t like that explanation.

They’re arguing, in other words, that a print structure — and the system of “desks” and “sections” in the modern American newspaper evolved in a manner particular to its print-centric, production-minded context — shouldn’t constrain the needs of digital publishing. As in:

And, Sideboob aside, they mention another born-digital news organization that doesn’t stick to rigid, topic-based structure.

Again: The fact that a Jeff Bezos interview ran with a /lifestyles/ URL and a Style banner doesn’t mean much. I doubt it cost the story a single reader. But it’s good to be reminded that, as part of the newspaper industry’s sleepwalk into digital, it carried a lot of old habits/workflows/assumptions with it. And dealing with that fact — a fact that, again, is far broader in scope than a URL structure — will be one of the keys to how Bezos and his team can turn the Post around.

Show tags Show comments / Leave a comment
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
The Worcester Sun wants to bootstrap paywalled hyperlocal digital into a Sunday print product
“We could use Sunday print to boost us into the stratosphere, to get us into a stable orbit where we can launch other things.”
Slate is taking steps to reduce its page load time by 75 percent
Slate Group vice chairman Dan Check discusses how Slate plans to speed up its site, how it’s thinking about ad blockers, and why it’s participating in platforms like Apple News.
This portable FM transmitter brings information to people in crisis
“When there is no existing infrastructure that is stable for any kind of media, we thought, let’s come back to good old radio.”
What to read next
As giant platforms rise, local news is getting crushed
The quest for scale, driven by the distribution power of a few enormous technology platforms, is killing the business case for local news. Will anything take its place?
890What happened after 7 news sites got rid of reader comments
Recode, Reuters, Popular Science, The Week, Mic, The Verge, and USA Today’s FTW have all shut off reader comments in the past year. Here’s how they’re all using social media to encourage reader discussion.
699Facebook woos journalists with Signal, a dashboard to gather news across Facebook and Instagram
Signal helps journalists find, source, and embed content from Facebook and Instagram.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Fox News
Voice of San Diego
Public Radio International
BBC News
Ann Arbor News
CBS News
The Miami Herald
Corporation for Public Broadcasting