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September 18, 2007

The Dallas Morning News and the Newspapers of the Future

Like most newspapers today, The Dallas Morning News faces critical questions about how it will adapt to the new media reality of declining subscriptions and loss of print advertising revenues. Investigative units can be fairly costly to keep, and even the best of them are finding it hard to translate award-wining journalism into profits (see a recent Fortune Magazine article with the rather gloomy headline, “Can the Washington Post Survive?”). The Dallas Morning News is no exception to the trend, and in the past three years, it has faced some rather aggressive downsizing of its staff.

Faced with the pressures of the decline of their medium, few papers have resisted going online – they are still not seeing the revenue stream, but they’re banking that it is the way of the future. Newspaper sites are using the web to go beyond their print reporting, provide more transparency to readers about where the reporting is coming from, and reach out to their constituencies in different ways – or they are stuck seeing their sites as archives for their still predominantly print enterprise. After about ten years of online newspapering, some sites are clearly doing it better than others.

Although not necessarily an indication of quality, DallasNews.com ranked among the top 30 Web newspapers in terms of traffic in recent Nielsen/Net ratings. For The Dallas Morning News’ “Road Hazards” series, the website is the place for additional reporting not included in the print edition (an online article about the TXI Transportation Co., a north Texas rock hauler with a questionable safety), a video with advice from Sgt. Chris Smith of the Dallas County’s Sheriff Department about sharing the road with big trucks, and documents ranging from court transcripts to compliance reviews of individual companies to fuel receipts. Readers’ ability to respond to the series was limited to less than a dozen posted comments and a now unavailable chat.

>>Check out The Dallas Morning News web features. Where does it rank compared to your paper of record?