It was perhaps inevitable, but the first newspaper has made the decision to abandon print and go “online only.” The Cincinnati Post, a 126-year-old paper owned by E.W. Scripps, published its final edition on Dec. 31 at the end of a joint operating agreement with Gannett, which owns The Cincinnati Enquirer, the dominant paper in town. Henceforth, it will publish KYPost.com. (Note to geography majors: Cincinnati is in Ohio but abuts Kentucky.)
For KYPost.com, it is a good idea to take advantage of existing brands and resources, possibly retaining its relationship with Cars.com. In particular, it can feed off a promotional tie with WCPO-TV, which is Scripps’ metro station. But its prospects, long term, probably don’t approach what a “real” newspaper brings to the table. While online versions of newspapers claim margins in the 50 percent range, far higher than the 18 percent to 21 percent margins of many newspapers, most of the costs of online personnel and sales aren’t included in the tally (technology usually is).
Its revenues are also relatively small. Just 7 percent to 8 percent of today’s newspaper business typically comes from online.
Scripps isn’t the only company, of course, to have to decide whether to go online only at the end of a JOA. A similar situation was faced last summer by Hearst’s The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.