With 2008 drawing to a brutal close on the media beat — bankruptcies, daily newspapers that are no longer daily, magazines that are downsizing into brochures — a little ray of light appeared in my e-mail inbox. It was from a newspaper owner, of all people.
Into the teeth of a historic recession, the newspaper had just published the biggest issue in its history. The product is double-digit profitable, and it has been growing at a clip of about 10 percent a year since it was founded in 1999, right about the time the Web was beginning to put its hands around print’s neck.
Finally, I thought, a story about a print organization that has found a way to tame the Web and come up with a digital business approach that could serve as a model. Except that TriCityNews of Monmouth County, N.J., is prospering precisely because it aggressively ignores the Web. Its Web site has a little boilerplate about the product and lists ad rates, but nothing more. (The address is trinews.com, for all the good it will do you.)
“Why would I put anything on the Web?” asked Dan Jacobson, the publisher and owner of the newspaper. “I don’t understand how putting content on the Web would do anything but help destroy our paper. Why should we give our readers any incentive whatsoever to not look at our content along with our advertisements, a large number of which are beautiful and cheap full-page ads?”