There are two parts to a newspaper:

  • Content (stories, photos, ads, features, etc.)
  • Mechanics (the newsprint, the typsetting, the printing, bundling, delivery, and of course recycling)

The good newspapers spend a lot of money on content, and they spend almost as much – if not more – on the mechanics.  The rest of the world has discovered the Internet, notebooks, netbooks, Blackberries, iPhones and Kindles. Yet newspapers still cling to some very outmoded and outlandish myths.

About a year ago, the publisher of a major newspaper in the Tampa Bay area outright rejected the idea of an electronic system to put the issues the reader would like to see first, on the front page of an Internet edition of the paper.  She told me that the newspaper’s front page design was important, that it showed what the “brain trust” of editors thought was important.

That’s nice. Last month, the newspaper  laid off a lot of the folks in that brain trust, they’ve downsized the newspaper itself and they’re in financial trouble.  As TV’s Dr. Phil would say, “So, how’s that working for ya?”

I don’t mean to denigrate the “brain trust” of the paper which consisted of many bright competent people.  But in this century some of us know what we want and have limited time to find it.

Other, more enlightened publishers have done wonders. Their competition across the bay does it differently. They put nearly all of their content online. They’re so good that I’d love to be able to pay for the content but there’s no mechanism to do so. All I can do is subscribe to their dead tree product, and then be stuck with having to recycle the product all the time.

We don’t want to have to pile up old newspapers, nor save clippings when we can search for what we want, or even bookmark it. We want convenience. I want to be able to read my newspaper anywhere in the world.

Work on that, newspaper industry, and you just might be able to survive.

9 Responses to Why newspapers are dying

  1. kingthorin
    May 01, 2009

    One thing that online new sites seem to miss out on is the idea of reviewer/editor. Prime examples occur in this very article:

    “…that it showed what the “brain trust” of editors though was important.”


    “…and the be stuck with having to recycle the product all the time.”


    The devil is in the detail.

  2. Eric Jacksch
    May 02, 2009

    Thanks for pointing out those errors. Every article that appears on TECHLife Post is edited, but our writers and editor do occasionally make mistakes.

    But that has nothing to do with being online — I’ve seen plenty of mistakes in print publications…

  3. Erin Nichols
    May 04, 2009

    Of course Eric/whatever, if you had actually read anything past the first paragraph the glaring error any ten year old would have picked up on wouldn’t have been miss. But then again that’s just you. You cant even comprehend an entire email. Of course it’s a blog for bloggers so I’m sure no one will notice.

  4. Editor
    May 04, 2009

    For the benefit of readers who might not have noticed the four errors in Erin’s single paragraph, her comment is obviously tongue-in-cheek. Well done Erin, and thanks for your support!

  5. kingthorin
    May 04, 2009

    I didn’t mean to imply that print was infallible just that more attention or care “seems” to go into printed material.

    People seem to think (at least subconsciously) that posting online should be less formal than full print. This is gradually changing but I still seem to encounter more errors in online media than in print.

  6. Editor
    May 04, 2009

    The quality of online media certainly does vary. Most of our writers have worked in print. The major difference to us is that we can operate a daily without printing costs or killing trees 🙂

  7. Evolving Squid
    May 05, 2009

    I can count 5 errors, not including grammatical errors, in Erin’s post 🙂

    One thing newspapers (and books, for that matter) have going for them is a sense of ritual. When I want to research a topic, I want the information on-line. That is a must.

    But when I want to read the news, there is more to it than just absorbing information. There’s the sitting in my comfy chair or other quiet place. There’s the feel of the paper – indeed, there’s the sort of comforting isolation of having that wall-of-paper open in front of me. On-line news can’t capture this (or at least I can’t figure out how it could capture that feeling).

    There are other issues too. Short of being stolen or being victim to an actual fire, my copy of Farenheit 451 will be there tomorrow. It will be there next week. It will be there 10 years from now. I can take my book or newspaper anywhere. They don’t need batteries. Even if my newspaper tears or my book’s spine is broken, it’s still usable. Drop a Kindle and you’re out how many $? Are downloaded books even transportable between Kindles (I honestly don’t know)? When I’ve read my newspaper, I can still use it to wrap fish or line a bird cage. Granted, you could do that with a Kindle or an iPod I suppose, but it wouldn’t be the same.

    I’m not convinced newspapers are in their death throes just yet. They certainly will end up there if they don’t adjust how they do business, but I don’t forsee the end of print media for many, many years to come.

  8. kingthorin
    May 05, 2009

    I know there’s a good crowd of security minded people around here so you might appreciate this loosely related article:
    which highlights the problems with online syndication (or whatever you want to call it).

  9. Eric Jacksch
    May 05, 2009

    Thanks, that’s a good one!

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