Love for and lessons from a newspaper's 180th anniversary

A screeenshot of the multimedia presentation from the Philadelphia Inquirer celebrating its 180th anniversary.

Go look at the online multimedia presentation on celebrating the 180th anniversary of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

If your interest in newspapers or Philadelphia or freelancing or new media or designing or anything else. Go there.

Packaged with a keepsake insert in yesterday’s Sunday print edition, it shows depth and breadth, intellectual and historical stimulation with engaging and beautiful design. I was excited to get my print edition and played online, as part of the preview Technically Philly was granted.

I’m an engaged young reader who clicked and played and more. Although my interest level is hardly representative of most my age; I have been calling for and eagerly awaiting such an historical promotion for months, if not a year or longer still.

But they did it bigger and better than I could have imagined. I’m thrilled to see an institution I respect and admire tell the world just why it matters so much.

Big credit goes to the staff and administration of and the Inquirer for doing a bold and forward-thinking package and doing it well. Other newspaper executives should take notice of the work done by Inquirer online editor Chris Krewson and those he credited — Frank Wiese, the Online Projects Editor, and Cynthia Greer, an artist in the Inqy’s graphics department.

And did you hear the big news that came out of it?

What’s more, as first reported by Technically Philly on Friday, the package comes with a bold yet buried pronouncement. Midway through the first page of a story entitled “Print will live in a digital age,” written by Inqy staffer Jeff Gammage and part of the package, came a fairly consequential tidbit:

You will not have to wait until 2029 to see more newspapers charging people to read their Web sites, industry watchers said. Giving away the news has proved – shockingly – to be a poor means of producing income.

Inquirer publisher Brian P. Tierney said the newspaper would launch a paid-content model on its Web site before the end of the year. The details are being discussed.

Other, game-changing ideas are in the works.

One is E-paper, which looks and partly acts like paper, in that it can be rolled. In 2029, electronic paper could enable newspapers to offer all the advantages of print – portability, convenience, readability – in a format that provides minute-by-minute updates. [Source]

romenesko-tphllyThe fair reporting of that by TP’s own Brian James Kirk earned our young site a light mention from journalism link-fest columnist Jim Romenesko, which brought some interest to our early break of the matter.

Though that news was the biggest — if left un-detailed — the fun interface from the Inqy came with some other toys that, I think, offer lessons.

  • The Inquirer at 50, in 1859 — This does a good job of hammering home just how much of a Philadelphia tradition the Inquirer is, far more so than some stupid cheesesteak or Rocky cliche.
  • Whoops, not the oldest paper — Through some specious logic of mergers and acquisitions the Inquirer once laid claim to being the oldest surviving newspaper in the country. They gave up the game, though its full-fledged founding in 1829 puts it among the country’s oldest.
  • All the Inqy’s Pulitzer Prize winning stories were digitized and posted — brilliant way to show off and get clicks and attention for your best work
  • Other historical stories and an interactive timeline
  • A gallery of historical front pages
  • Buy historic front pages — In a wonderful bout of merchandising, history hounds can purchase reproductions of old Inqy front pages, like the paper’s noteworthy coverage of the Civil War. I think there’s plenty more room for better monetization of that Inquirer brand, as other newspapers should do.

It’s worth noting that the Philadelphia Tribune — the country’s oldest black-targeted newspaper — celebrated its 125th anniversary in March.

I hope other newspapers will have such a clear way of showing how important and impactful they are.

Simply, Inquirer, you reminded me just why you matter. I just hope it never disappears into the site’s janky search field — I don’t want it to be forgotten like other stories are. Give yourself an About page, Inqy, and show off. I wish more newspapers would show off. Make it easy for me to remember why the Hell you ought to exist in some form in the future.

Look at this project!

What did you think?