The Cap Times Web Experiment

For whatever reason, a story I wrote two years ago on The Capital Times’ move to a mostly Web existence surfaced the other day at the Association of Alternative Newspapers’ archive. (Or so I learned from a Google alert.)

Given my interest in the media, I might as well post it. Here’s how the story begins:

Good luck, Cap Times. You’ll need it. Converting from a six-day-a-week paid paper to an online news site is like jumping from a very high cliff into a very deep and mysterious pool.

The paper might be killed. Or it might be transformed.

One thing’s for sure: The Capital Times that Madison has known for 90 years will be gone. Online publishing is a fundamentally different proposition for both journalists and readers. Experts consider it a classic disruptive technology that reorders daily life for just about everyone it touches and destroys what was thought to be a durable economic model for the eclipsed technology.

Newspapers won’t die off as quickly as slide rules did when calculators were introduced, but the changes under way are so epochal you’d be foolish to believe anyone who speaks confidently of what publishing will be like in 10 years.

“Nobody knows anything,” as veteran screenwriter William Goldman famously said of the secrets to successful movie-making. The newspaper business is even more in the dark as to how it will make its next buck.

Actually, newspapers are beginning to make out a possible future–paywalls and online subscriptions. It may be time for me to check back with the Cap Times and see how its experiment fares.

For more of the original story,  go here.

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