Backwards Reeled The Mind: Inkie Will Print First, Serve Later

imageThe Philadelphia Inquirer is reverting to what once was the policy for most newspapers — print first for most stories, then online. Now, with the exception of breaking news, the Inkie plans to buck the trend of online first or going online after the print editions are in but before they’ve been delivered. The new policy also affects the paper’s bloggers, who are urged to check with editors if uncertain about whether they should be developing stories online. No explanation why but it isn’t hard to find the logic: paying readers should come first, make subscribing more relevant, etc. Then there’s the added twist of sharing with the competing Daily News. However logical that sounds, at the same time the Inquirer risks making itself less relevant for those who already have made the transition online and losing their attention — and with that, becoming less relevant for advertisers.

Managing Editor Mike Leary told staffers about the change Thursday, in a memo that showed up on Romenesko: “Beginning today, we are adopting an Inquirer first policy for our signature investigative reporting, enterprise, trend stories, news features, and reviews of all sorts. What that means is that we won’t post those stories online until they’re in print. We’ll cooperate with, as we do now, in preparing extensive online packages to accompany our enterprising work. But we’ll make the decision to press the button on the online packages only when readers are able to pick up The Inquirer on their doorstep or on the newsstand.” As for breaking news: “This does not mean that we will put the brakes on the immediate posting of breaking news that puts us first in a competitive Web marketplace. On the contrary.” The paper started a morning team this year focused on being “first with the news.”

For Jeff Jarvis, it’s another death knell: “Protecting the past is no strategy for the future. It is suicide. It is murder. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

But online news vet Howard Owens likes the idea of differentiating the two and says the paper isn’t going far enough. “I say, never put those stories online, but still make sure every single reporter and editor is working hard to ensure a great online edition.”

Photo credit: It’s Our City