print isn’t dead, it’s just not as papery

newspaper stack

If you’re running a newspaper or working for one, there have been many times in your career where you’ve felt your job may be threatened.

The two biggies, it would seem to me, would be when television became popular and then in more recent times with the advent of the internet. If I’d worked on a printing press for any amount of time, I think I would have had or be experiencing some sleepless nights when considering the impact of those two communication channels.

And if you are graduating as a journalism student this spring, I’m guessing you also set yourself up with a pretty strong minor in case the writing and reporting thing doesn’t work out.

To wit: the editors of the trade magazine Editor and Publisher report the following major newspapers all lost circulation in daily and Sunday subscriptions: The Washington Post, New York Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Boston Globe. Of the top 25 newspapers only the Wall Street Journal and USA Today gained daily circulation.

My uneducated guess would be that paid advertising in those papes might also be down as well.

We all still crave content but as consumers we seem to be caring less about packaging, more about convenience and still more about the delivery system. And oh yes, free is still better than not free. The internet is free. Paid internet subscriptions to news sites has pretty much failed as a business model with certain business publications like the Wall Street Journal being a notable exception. Even the New York Times is now free on line (it’s one of the best web layouts and I subscribe to it, for free).

In spite of the proliferation of gossip as news, most adults still want news…we want to know what’s going on in our cities and states and our nation. We have families to raise, homes to protect, knowledge to gain and print media plays a big role in collecting and sharing that information. They’ve just been slow in updating their delivery system from paper to electronic.

That switch is a game changer for the financially troubled newspaper industry. Some jobs will no longer be needed (pressmen, delivery truck drivers) and new jobs will be created (web programmers etc). All thru the change, these publishers are still responsible for getting the news out. Aren’t you glad you don’t have their business problems?

But we have a responsibility too, as news consumers. We are adapting and forcing the new delivery system of our news but we’re also blurring the news content lines.

What is news? Is your news the same as my news. If it’s not, how is a publisher to know what to publish and who to publish for? With the web, we can be very specific about what each of us decides is real news.

That’s a problem because we’re not all terribly judicious in our selections. According to a quick search today on Alexa.com, globally the top print-based news site on the web is the New York Times…coming in at #97! It was beat out by a ton of Google sites, You Tube, CNN, porn sites and ESPN.

We need to check (or install) our personal news filters (internal and external) to make sure we’re not keeping out hard news by focusing only soft topics we like (hobby sites, gossip etc). The internet and its tool can seduce us into stupidity if we let it (just as TV can and has). We WILL dumb ourselves down to the point of submission if we completely embrace our freedom of choice in news gathering to only the stuff that doesn’t trouble us.

We need to know some stuff we’d rather not know about (wars, crime, finance) too.

Thanks for reading.

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