The shortage of advertising has left a hole in the newspaper that is allowing some people to see more what they are actually paying for, author Robert Picard is one of those people. As he states in January of this year,
“In reading the paper I realized that about half the stories were from news agencies and services and that I had read many of them day before on Yahoo! News and the New York Times and Washington Post websites. A number of the paper’s local stories were on the Boston.com site or other Boston sites before they appeared in print. I am an avid news consumer and love the paper format, but the paucity of original and novel content left me wonder ‘Why am I still paying for the paper, especially when I have to call at least once a week because of delivery problems.’”
Think about that. Newspapers need to move their content online, no one argues that but the question in the air is what happens to the print edition once that happens? What is so much better about the dead tree format that I would decide to pay for it once all the information is available online.
Some would argue that there is something really special about sitting down with a newspaper and reading it away from a screen, but this is likely more generational gap than act. People who were born into an age where their earliest experiences with the news were television shows and websites don’t feel compelled to sit down with the morning paper, in the same way they don’t feel particularly compelled to hear the town crier telling them about the days events.
This is not to say the death of print is inevitable, newspaper sales are up in many countries, especially Asia and we’ve seen far too many opportunities presented in this story to count newspapers out completely. What it does mean is that if the print edition is going to survive in America, it is going to need to do something entirely different. There needs to be a reason why I want this paper delivered to my house, and a reason why paper is the medium it needs to be delivered in.
If newspapers continue to avoid the real question, “why paper?” they will continue to find themselves on the losing side of the changing landscape.