Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Why Won’t Print Just Die

The death bell has been ringing for years in the newspaper business, as digital on-demand media becomes the way most of the western world keeps connected.

SO how come print just won’t die?

Funny thing about technology – it makes it possible for even old things to be new once again.

Maybe we’re just waiting for the right genius kid to discover a new technological solution to re-ignite the newspaper business?

That kid better hurry up – there’s not much left at most newspaper offices these days except a few old curmudgeons and the blurry eyed interns that don’t see the proverbial forest for the trees.

When I was a kid, we got The Toronto Star delivered to our home every day. When it came, we’d take turns ripping through it, looking for our favourite sections.
We always fought over the "Star Week" the paper's TV Guide, this was back long before on-screen program guides which we all have now.

I really enjoyed the national, local and international news sections, along with “Wheels,” and I even liked some of what us old school reporters used to call “the woman’s section” known as “Life.”

I remembered enjoying the full-colour comics on Saturdays, and how they packed extra stuff into the weekend papers.

Thinking back, I feel sorry for the kid that was our newspaper carrier at the time, because the Saturday Star must have weighed as much as a Smartcar.
Those were the days before the Internet, social media, and on-demand digital media. People had more time – or so it seems now – to read through all the various sections, gloriously getting inked fingers from the constant page-turning.

Not so anymore – all broadsheet-width newspapers reduced their standard width years ago, simply because it was becoming too expensive to make such Bible-sized publications.

When that happened over 20-years ago, it was the start of the end for print. Newspapers, like most media sources, make their money by advertisers. The more advertisers, the more pages a paper can be, the more stories can be jammed in.

As people stopped reading papers, advertisers pulled out, meaning fewer pages for the already popular sections.

So newspaper moguls cut the size of the physical paper. They claimed at the time it was to make it easier for people to read, and in a way it was.

But truth be told, it was because newsprint costs went up, while ad revenues and readership went down.

Many major metropolitan daily newspapers including The New York Times, The Globe and Mail and others have attempted “pay walls” to bring in much needed cash flow.
A “pay wall” essentially lets you read part of a story, or a certain number of articles from the publication online, and then after that limit, you have to either pay for an online subscription, or pay a set price per article to continue reading.

Though when it comes to the end product – news – who’s going to pay for something you can get for free in a more timely manner via television, radio, or the social networks?

Pay walls aren’t going to save newspapers from their death.

And yesterday’s announcement of staff cuts and outsourcing labour by Canada’s largest daily certainly puts another knife in the back of an already dying media business.

Although I’m a digital media guy, I’ve always enjoyed newspapers, and hope that someone, somehow figures out a way to save them.

But time is not on their side, as they continue to slash staff, outsource production, and lose money, in our on-demand digital media world.

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