I'm the VP-Content at The World Company, in Lawrence, KS, where we're inventing the future of local news and information. I've spent 20 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies. You can read more about me here.
Here's a twist: A newspaper killing its Web site but keeping its print edition. At least for now.
That's what's happening at The New York Times-owned International Herald Tribune, where the Times Co. is closing the paper's IHT.com site, according to Forbes, and redirecting the traffic to NewYorkTimes.com.
Normally, killing a newspaper Web site would make no sense–but in this case, it does. The entire IHT operation–print and online–is an anachronism. It made sense maybe 20 years ago to have an English-language publication available overseas, where travelers and expatriates had little choice. The IHT had a near-monopoly then. But print competition from overseas editions of The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and the Financial Times undercut the IHT's print operation, and the Web rendered it essentially moot, by providing up-to-the-minute access to any publication around the world.
I never did understand why The New York Times didn't rebrand the IHT as a European edition of the Times when it wrested the paper away from co-owner The Washington Post Co. a few years ago, but this step seems to indicate that the Times finally is heading in that direction. IHT.com, as a separate brand that mostly carried New York Times content, didn't really make much sense as a standalone site. It seems likely the company will come to the same conclusion about the print edition as well. But in the meantime, it's the Web site that gets shuttered first.
I have friends at the IHT and did some consulting for the Web site a few years ago, so it's very sad to see IHT.com go. But in the current environment, newspaper companies need to take a coldhearted look at everything and decide what makes business sense. IHT.com didn't.