The blogosphere, especially in Minnesota, is abuzz over the Minneapolis Star Tribune‘s decision to make popular columnist/blogger James Lileks into an ordinary beat reporter.
Don Surber calls it “hot type thinking in a digital world”, and that’s about as accurate a description as any. The Star Tribune isn’t just a paper that’s biased to the left, it’s also a paper that doesn’t really get the new world of modern media. Rather than embracing the potential of new media, the Star Tribune has been plastering their sites with ugly ads (such as the gawdawful use of tiled ads all over the background that makes their site look like a cross between a MySpace page and a web site from 1997) and really embracing blogging, the Star Tribune has only tentatively embraced blogging.
The Star Tribune, like many other newspapers who haven’t embraced the 21st Century, is hemorrhaging cash and readership. There’s a correlation between the two. For one, the Star Tribune (like The New York Times) has little appeal beyond the urban elite market, and secondly, it’s stuck in the old world of dead-tree publishing. Lileks even suggests how the Star Tribune could reinvent itself and become relevant again — which has about a snowball’s chance in hell of happening, but would make the Star Tribune one of the most, dare I say it, progressive newspapers in the country.
But when one gets right down to it, for all their liberalism, the Star Tribune and many other newspapers are deeply conservative when it comes to their business. Which is why in the next decade, the newspaper business as we know it will be at best a niche market — and the Star Tribune will be playing second-fiddle to the media outlets that do understand the new media environment — provided they survive at all.