April 16, 2009

The Demise of the Printed Newspaper is Yesterday’s News

I've been thinking about this a lot today. You see, I have a routine. Every morning I get up at about 5:00am and workout for an hour or so. Then I get the local newspaper and the Wall Street Journal from the driveway. I make coffee and breakfast. Then I sit, eat, and read the paper. I've had this routine for about as long as I can remember. I have always read the newspaper. I like to know what's going on locally, nationally and abroad. I enjoy reading the short human-interest blurbs and the gossip column. There are also several comics I make a point of reading every day. Most days, the information I glean from the newspapers enables me to start interesting conversations with people as I go through my day.

A month ago the Rocky Mountain News folded. I was quite distressed. I enjoyed reading the News, and had done so all my life. The News was printed in tabloid style. The other local paper is not, and in my opinion, is much harder to read. Just the other day I was trying to read the paper in a restaurant and was having a difficult time folding and situating the paper on the table. Twice, pages fell to the floor to my amazement and the amusement of other diners. Having to read the other local paper in this format was causing me some distress. About this same time, I was notified it was time to renew my subscription. I was torn. Do I subscribe to a paper I dislike reading, not because of the content, but because of the format? I thought it through and realized quickly that the Wall Street Journal was printed in the same format and I had no problem reading that paper. Weird revelation wasn't it? I have subscribed to the online version of the Wall Street Journal for many years. I read the printed paper a couple days a week. Instead of reading it at home, I bring it to the office and place it in the lobby for visitors and colleagues to read throughout the day. I renewed my subscription to the local paper for the shortest time possible, thinking I would give it a try and see if I could adjust to the new format. I also thought I'd bring my computer to the table a few times and see what it was like getting my news fix from the internet.

I've pretty much adjusted to the new format of the local paper. Today I received another notice. It's time to renew my subscription again. Once again, this has become quite a dilemma. On the days I tried to get my local news from the internet all went well, except for one thing. Once the computer was on, I felt compelled to check my e-mail, visit my Facebook page, and send a few tweets on Twitter. It took me significantly longer to get my local news online because of these "distractions." The other problem was determining the source of the local news I was going to read. Should I go to the website of the newspaper I didn't like reading (After all, that's where the comics are!), or should I go to one of the local television stations' websites? Generally, I did both.

Printed newspapers around the country are closing shop. Ad revenue is not great enough to cover costs. This saddens me. Today though, I had a revelation as I was browsing the internet for my local, national, and news from abroad. Mixed in with the stories found in today's newspaper were stories titled "Breaking News" and "Today's Stories." I realized today that when I read the paper in the morning I am reading yesterday's news. I also realized that a lot of things have happened since that paper went to press. By reading the newspaper in the morning, I am actually behind the times. I am not reading the current information others are reading. My conversation starters are "old news" to many. Maybe that's why ad revenue is not great enough to cover the cost of printing a paper. Advertisers are likely to get more bang for their buck advertising online. Is this a bad thing or just the natural progression of a society that is getting more comfortable with the online experience? I don't have the answer, and continue to struggle with it myself. Maybe I'll know more by the time my subscription renewal is due.
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TheBAFSignal by Bradley A. Friedman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.bafman.com.