The problems of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer are widely known - but its future isn't. With the paper edition to go out of business if a buyer isn't found by March, speculation has been mounting over whether the publication will move online-only. At one point there was even the suggestion that it would be announced as one of the publications on new e-reader Plastic Logic, although this proved not to be the case. The latest in the ongoing saga is an email leaked by a Seattle P-I writer, which contains an invitation to PI employees to meet with owner Hearst's vice President for digital media Ken Riddick to dicuss their "ideas" for the publication.
If the P-I were to move online-only, there would have to be changes in the newsroom, blogger and journalist Gina Chen believes. She says that whilst she is "a huge proponent of journalists getting out of the office and going to the scene of the crash, the crime or the trial... A typical day in an online-first newsroom should be different than in a traditional newsroom. If it's not, your newsroom isn't online first enough". The key is time management according to Chen, and a full integration with the online culture - instant news and social networks for example. She says that its imperative to check your social media sites regularly and interact with readers, and also to blog about news as it happens even if the full article doesn't follow until later.
Whilst the P-I's move to online seems to be hanging in the balance, there are two new online-only news sites opening up: Arizona Guardian and Heat City. The Guardian is a news-based site, and whilst initially free of charge it will ultimately have some form of subscription fee whilst also accepting advertising. Tim McGuire who is Frank Russell Chair for the business of journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications observes that the approach is "incredibly risky and demands that the site's material be indispensable. That is a high bar." Heat City carries the tag line 'Hard news in the public interest from Metro Phoenix, and its founder Nick Martin is a former student of McGuire's.
It's a possibility for the Seattle PI and a reality for Arizona Guardian, Heat City and many others on the net, but going online-only still carries risks and often lacks an effective or profitable business model. It also calls for a very different newsroom process. However its an increasingly present aspect of the news industry, and the search for a successful yet money-making business model is most definitely on.