On Newspapers

I’ve always been a newspaper person–I might have given up the coffee, but Sundays aren’t complete without a thick newspaper and a bagel. However, I’m not immune to the lure of the web. During the week, I will probably get more of my news online than on newsprint. My twitter account (which I have mostly abandoned) still brings me the links to the local paper’s breaking stories. Online, I also have access to the New York Times and many other news sources when I want in-depth coverage of an issue.

I’ve been motivated to write about this since I got back from my summer vacation–a beautiful cottage in Canada, steps away from a lake with a beautiful sunny deck, kayaks and canoes. There was no computer and I don’t have an iPhone either. If I wanted the news (and the increasingly disturbing Red Sox box scores) we had to drive several miles into town and pick up one of several newspapers–the Toronto Star, The Ottawa Citizen or the Globe & Mail. (And those are just the broadsheets–there were a couple of tabloids, as well as the more local papers–Kingston and Brockville.)

Despite the bucolic nature of the vacation and the plethora of newspapers available, I don’t think I’d want to go back to traditional newspapers being my only source of news. The web is too damn convenient, too comprehensive. I look upon my $25/month internet connection fee the same way I’d look at Netflix, for example. I have an infinite amount of news sources for a monthly fee. I’m not tied to a sole news provider and html links provide a much more in depth news gathering experience.

This, of course, begs the question about how the actual news gatherer will be paid. It is much less costly to produce an online newspaper than to produce a print newspaper. The only difference is the much larger ad revenues to be had in a print paper. Jon Taplin nailed the problem on the head:
The potential ad content on the internet is infinitesimal: billions of pages, all with Google ads and banners etc. . . so the value for any ad is reduced. The NY Times still makes more money on print ad revenue–because the premium nature of total ad content allows it to charge much higher rates, even though the NY Times has 20 million people reading its website each month and only a million reading its newsprint paper.

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One thought on “On Newspapers

  1. NYCO

    I work in a sort of pseudo-newspaper kind of environment and I have to say that the last few months have been interesting. I wonder if what I’ve noticed has been going on at real newspapers… a certain resistance to rolling up the shirt sleeves. Many people are embracing the changes, but I’ve noticed that a few people are not dealing well with the new complexity of online publishing and the loosening of the process. They seem to feel like they are losing editorial control they once had. There is perhaps a feeling of losing one’s prestige and importance. Some people seem to be responding by micromanaging and trying to make their new websites all things to all people… but the number of websites are exploding and you really are less able to control the eyeballs. It is a paradox: the more complexity you embrace, the less return you get on it. Instead of stamping one’s foot and saying “WE do this, this is OUR job and OUR job alone, for we are The Professionals,” the more sane way in the end may be to just swallow one’s pride and help other people join in. AS for what you get paid – well, you get to be a member of the new community. News (and “news”) professionals should be thankful for that instead of adversarial.

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