Friday, March 06, 2009

Hearst Not Really Sincere About Online Post-Intelligencer

Sure, It May Actually Happen, but Seattle Times Has Nothing to Worry About

Now that Hearst has made it clear that no white knight will step in to take the Seattle Post-Intelligencer off its hands, it's making tentative steps to turn the paper into an online-only operation.
But given the scant details that have leaked out, it's hard to see why Hearst would even bother. According to the P-I, it would employ only about 20 people. That, in and of itself would not be suprising, if you go by the generally accepted model that online only gets about 10 percent of the revenue that the print version generates.
Still, given the skeletal staff, it's hard to see what the value proposition is for readers -- and advertisers -- in an online P-I without the support of a larger newsroom to draw from. It's debatable how much, if anything, it could offer that readers couldn't get from rival the Seattle Times, even if that paper has its own financial woes. But at least it would still have some semblance of a newsroom.
No such luck at the P-I.
In addition, Hearst seems to be making it easy for journalists to walk away from the offer to work at the site, no small feat in this economy.

One metro reporter, Hector Castro ... said the offer increased his health insurance cost, cut his salary by an unspecified amount, offered to match his 401(k) contributions, required him to forgo his P-I severance pay, reduced his vacation accrual to zero and required him to give up overtime.

Of course, there will be enough staffers desperate enough to sign on even with those draconian terms. Less clear is why they would bother without a stronger product to put out. They may find out the hard way that Hearst will reach that same conclusion before long.

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