Why Should I Buy A (Print) Newspaper?

Apr 2, 2009 by

I don’t know.

And now I’ve said it. And it sucks saying it because it was my life for roughly a quarter of a century.

I’m afraid the only thing  keeping print versions alive right now  is habit. It’s what you’ve always done, what you’ve always known. It’s a comfort zone.

And you know, a habit is basically an addiction. And addictions can be expensive, but they can also be broken.  And it’s a lot easier to break an addiction if you can keep your addiction, and suddenly get it for “free.”

Damn, somehow I brought in that whole paid verses free online content thing again, didn’t I?

I love newspapers. And with that I want to point out the English language is simply lacking in adequately descriptive words. The word “love” should be reserved for, well, poems and songs and significant others, like the Little Black Dress. And yeah, newspapers, but the LBD understands that.

But adulation, affection, allegiance, amity, amorousness, amour, appreciation, ardency, ardor, attachment, crush, delight, devotedness, devotion. enchantment, enjoyment, fervor, fidelity, flame, fondness, friendship, hankering, idolatry, inclination, infatuation, involvement, like, lust, mad for, partiality, passion, piety, rapture, regard, relish, respect, sentiment, soft spot, taste, tenderness, weakness, worship, yearning and zeal don’t quite get it.

Change that. “Passion” does. So does “Zeal.”

Anyway, why do I “love” print newspapers.

1. They’re cheap.

2. Absurdly portable

3. No boot-up time

4. No crash

5. Airport Security. Nuff said.

6. Throw it down, stomp on it, dust it off and back to square one.

7. Okay yes, bird cages and puppy training and packing up Aunt Emma’s old china.  Happy?

8. Because the people who write for print newspapers have a passion, a zeal, a love, for what they do. They are underpaid, overworked (okay, that applies to everyone now), and yet they still care.

9.  It’s a one-shot deal. It’s printed, it’s done. Tomorrow’s another day. We rip the whole thing up and start all over. It’s a new day, every day.

10.  There is no No. 10. I friggin hate “Top 10” lists.

And honestly, great print journalists have no fear. They might get nervous before a big interview, but they have no fear. They might get sick and throw up if there’s an error in their story, but they have no fear. They have a passion, a drive.

Yet that incredible product is going the way of the dinosaur, partly because it’s being given away for free, and partly because the product  is starting to lose its value.

The cost of a daily newspaper continues to go up. Yet its size continues to shrink and shrink. Not only are there fewer pages, but the width is shrinking as well.

And how about that customer service? Used to be the paper was delivered right at your doorstep. Now I have to hike all the way up my drive. Why? Heck, in some places you can’t even get a daily newspaper delivered any more – Detroit.

And what about content. By the time I read the newspaper, it’s literally old news. I’ve already read it online, or someone emailed me a story, or I got a text version, or something. Why should I pay for a newspaper I’ve already read?

We’re getting to the point where the print product is only a delivery mechanism for coupons.

Here’s how Jen of Editor and Publisher’s Fitz and Jen column summed it up: “Too many newspapers lately seemed preoccupied with getting people to pay for online content while treating those people who actually pay for the content via print subscriptions as second-class readers. How? They drop frequency. They kick home-delivery to the curb. They raise the price of subscriptions (and especially newsstand copies) and give less in return. For all the blubbering about hyper local, I’ve noticed a lack of focus in daily metros when I’m lucky enough to travel around the U.S. It’s full of AP and wire copy with a handful of “local” stories broken into digestible chunks with lots of pictures. I wouldn’t pay for that.

The print version needs to be, must be, unique. It has to have content not available elsewhere. It has to have value or it will simply become high-priced packing paper.

I ran a news service for five years, which included more than 30 papers.  During that time, I could count on two hands, okay and maybe one foot, how many times I touched a print newspaper.

Yet I was able to hold an intelligent conversation with any of those papers’ editors about what was going on in their community. That’s obviously a plug for the value of an online paper, but it doesn’t bode well for the print product.

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