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Thursday, October 18, 2012

It's Not Just the Business Model That's Killing Print

Posted by on Thu, Oct 18, 2012 at 12:09 PM

Sullivan's got some interesting thoughts on Newsweek's decision to cease print publication. (More eloquent, but strikingly similar to some observations I made a couple years ago about the decline of the newspaper industry.)

But the line of Sullivan's that stood out for me was this: "When we read online, we migrate to read people, not institutions."

Yeah, sure, daily newspapers have a business model problem. But it's more than just that. They're not giving readers the right the product. The nameless, faceless, I-can't-tell-one-byline-from-another style in which most newspapers are written is an anachronism that undermines the relationship between the publication and its readers.

Modern readers crave a personal relationship with the people providing them news and commentary. They want to know who we are and what we stand for. Readers don't want to have to guess our bias; they want to be trusted to read us in context, and judge the facts for themselves.

Twentieth century readers would never have stood for newspapers written in a 19th century style. So why should 21st century readers be expected to embrace dated 20th century conventions?


Comments (8) RSS

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Free Lunch 1
On the flip side, there's something that the online newspapers have yet to convey: a sense of leisure.

There is something inherently relaxing - and certainly more focused - about reading a paper newspaper than an online one. Online, I rarely finish a long article - probably because there's just so much other shit I could be reading - but in a newspaper, I do more often than not.

For example, browsing the Sunday New York Times online has almost nothing in common with buying the slab of paper, where'll I'll easily spend most the afternoon reading it, sections spread out over the whole of the house.
Posted by Free Lunch on October 18, 2012 at 12:40 PM · Report this
@1, beautifully put. I don't much relish the thought of the future this post imagines, all our journalism cut heavily with the baby laxative of punditry. But if it's that or go without altogether...
Posted by gloomy gus on October 18, 2012 at 1:03 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 3

I find that I can no longer enjoy serial or oratory media of any kind.

I can't even watch a Netflix movie any more without stopping it, looking up references online, checking Facebook, making a comment in Twitter.

I was reading Chris Anderson's new book "Makers" on my Kindle. Every page I wanted to spin off into a thread, challenging, enhancing or augmenting the argument.

I realized. We can't go back. The Conversation is replacing Oratory in all media.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on October 18, 2012 at 1:04 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 4
@1, I completely agree.

Also, if one focuses on the people rather than the institution in today's media, doesn't that run the risk of further polarizing issues and people and lead to a "I ONLY read The Druge Report or I ONLY read Huffington Post?" Does it further insulate the echo chambers?
Posted by Urgutha Forka on October 18, 2012 at 1:11 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 5
@1 has a point.

Or used to, back in the day when the comics and crosswords covered more than a teeny part of a page.

Just remember, for most of newspaper history, selling ads on your front page, in the middle of articles, the corners, wherever ... was NORMAL.

Stop yearning for a bygone era that was a flash in the pan and remember what journalism has always been ... penny dreadfuls. Just look at the India Times. There's your future.
Posted by Will in Seattle on October 18, 2012 at 1:13 PM · Report this
@1 Exactly. I quickly, guiltily, and quite often, angrily, scan Slog and a couple local blogs once a day, but spend half my Sunday and the rest of the week reading every word of my Sunday New York Times. I get no joy reading online, but I fucking love my print edition.
Posted by mitten on October 18, 2012 at 5:52 PM · Report this
Modern readers crave a personal relationship with the people providing them news and commentary. They want to know who we are and what we stand for. Readers don't want to have to guess our bias; they want to be trusted to read us in context, and judge the facts for themselves.

Yep, no one ever followed bylines in print.
Posted by Mister G on October 19, 2012 at 12:04 AM · Report this
Yes, #4, it does. Look no further than the Stranger for that. It's pretty much Seattle's Daily Kos. There is no more intelligence or independence here than there is at Fox News. The online universe channels the like-minded into self-reinforcing silos.

The Seattle Times is deemed "Republican" here because they tend to endorse Republicans for state governor, at least recently. But they've endorsed plenty of Democrats for other offices, and some liberal (and conservative) initiatives.

For all its flaws, the Seattle Times is infinitely more independent than the hipsters around here, not to mention far more diligent and conscientious than the Stranger has ever been or will ever be.

For this crowd to dump on the Seattle Times for its lack of objectivity is just ludicrous. I used to think that only dogs and Republicans were incapable of being embarrassed, but I have come to realize that the average Seattle "progressive" needs to be added to the list.
Posted by Mister G on October 19, 2012 at 2:30 AM · Report this

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