Who ever ends up buying the King County Journal could end up on the better end of the Puget Sound newspaper wars, or at the much cooler end. If the eventual buyer of the Journal (and its other properties)

The Journal has been suffering while the PI and the Times position themselves for a time when their JOA no longer binds them together:

High-tech folks were swarming to the Eastside, and they weren’t reading the paper. Despite the Eastside’s massive growth, not only did the Journal‘s market share decline, its real circulation plummeted. Losses mounted, and Horvitz eventually combined the paper with the South County Journal into the present King County Journal, a measure that may have saved money but declared loyalty to a region that pretty much only exists on paper. People in Medina don’t give a damn about people in Kent, and vice versa. The combined circulation of the two Journals was 66,000 in 1994; it’s now down to 40,000.

One of the frustrating things about the Journal has been a tendency to be late to the game in producing a paper for an increasingly sophisticated market. It’s long read like your dad’s slippers-and-pipe suburban rag, the journalistic equivalent of Chace’s Pancake Corral, a Bellevue diner with the down-home feel of a 1960s suburban golfer’s rec room. Quite late, the Journal had few reporters covering the emergence of Microsoft or Nintendo—stories of national import that were in the Journal‘s backyard. And you’d think a newspaper in the heart of the Silicon Forest would have a state-of-the-art Web site, but the Journal‘s has always been a clunker.

It is assumed one of the Seattle papers will fold eventually, leaving the other the King of All Seattle. But, who ever ends up with the Journal could have something to say about that.

Take, for example, what’s going on down in Portland. Pamplin Media owns a chain of suburban weeklies around Portland and publishes a very popular free twice weekly inside Portland (the Tribune). They top it of with a radio station. Every single property produces news, and now, produces content for one big online daily (actually more than daily) newspaper.

Similarly, the King County Journal sale will include not only the Journal itself (and its commercial printing press), but also two other weeklies and seven every other weeklies. This may be a more modest empire than Pamplin’s in Oregon, but it could be the start of a web-enabled media group,focusedd mainly on producing less than daily real print newspapers and a real time online news product.

The PI and Times already do pretty well online, but it would be interesting to see someone try to make a go at it mainly online.