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Newsprint [Mar. 18th, 2009|11:11 pm]
Yesterday, the Seattle PI printed its last daily edition. It exists now only as a news site on the web, employing only a fraction of its old reporting staff.

A while back, I'd said that I expected newspapers to vanish in the near future. I pegged it at five years, though that was a while ago and it's now about 4.5 remaining. To clarify, I'm thinking about daily printed newspapers, not coupon circulars and free ad gazettes.

It's an interesting battle between the archaic(?) machinery of distributing printed news versus the romanticism surrounding the product. The web is instant, two-way, and low-cost or free. Newspapers, though, represent entrenched journalism and standards that are not widespread on the web (yet). Will our need for established channels let them hang on in the face of superior technology? Will they adapt and evolve, as the Seattle P-I is doing, bringing their journalism ethic to the web and challenging other sites on their own terms?

I'm not anxious to see a demise of newspapers by any means but it's what I see in the cards. Perhaps I'm too cynical and quick to dismiss them... What do you think?

Poll #1367984 Print Newspapers

Most daily print newspapers will be gone...

even sooner!
within the next 4-5 years, yeah.
within the next 5-8 years.
within the next 8-15 years.
much later than you'd expect!

[User Picture]From: antimon
2009-03-19 07:04 am (UTC)
printed newspaper doesn't nessicarily mean quality look at the tabloids, and isn't teh Post generlaly recarded as rubish? nto all papers are created equal...but the reason news papers are still around has little to do with the quality of their printed materials, the reason they are around is...:

Convinience. people do not all have web enabled cel phones, nor do they want to struggle with the tiny scrans even if they do, they do nto always want to whip out their laptops or have an internet signel available. Peopel can't take a dump and comfortablly juggle electronics, you can't fold a computer and read it one handed while sipping coffee reclined in yoru chair.

news papers are generlaly allowed at yoru desk while surfign 3rd party non work related websites isn't, nto to mention break rooms.

The technology to replace newspapers isn't yet wide spread

Until we get things liek teh Kindle 2 or better alal star trek like datapads, large, easy to read screans with extensive battery life, high portability and low cost ie if you leave it someplace you wont curse, onlien sites are suppliments to printed material not a repalcement for.

sure web sites are mroe up to date and can be updated and have news changed 24/7 but ti isn't as convinient to access in as many palces.

I think you'll see papers offerign PDF versions of their papers for downloading and offlien viewing first then we'll gradually ween off the paper as cheap portable, durable electronic replica's are produced.

they are just now making foldable paper thin lcd's...we're getting there
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2009-03-19 07:19 am (UTC)
printed newspaper doesn't nessicarily mean quality look at the tabloids

Good point... I was really overlooking tabloids. But I hope that's not to suggest that the newspapers will necessarily head that direction, more that these are going to be some of the holdouts.

Convenience / technology

This, I think, is the crux of the matter. Paper is still incredibly convenient in its portability and reliability. It's downside is the distribution overhead and lack of updates. (Those who keep scrapbooks might argue that's not a downside?)

It's a race on this front. Paper's not improving but technology is. I may be jumping the gun, though, on my guesses at the rate of progress and --also key-- its adoption.
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[User Picture]From: swandog
2009-03-19 10:25 am (UTC)
There are still a LOT of older people that read the printed paper and don't read it on the Net (or even have the Net), and many of them are still gonna be around for awhile yet, so I imagine the papers will still be around too. My son just got a job delivering newspapers, and his route is mostly based in the part of the neighborhood where the elderly live.
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2009-03-19 01:58 pm (UTC)
Quite right and the demographic of newspaper subscribers is trending older, from what I've heard. But how long is that sustainable? Is that audience a large enough population to sustain more than a few national-level papers? I'm less certain (but perhaps too doom and gloom).
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From: avon_deer
2009-03-19 12:43 pm (UTC)
I think quality papers will survive. The Times, Guardian, or Independant have little to worry about. Likewise the really trashy ones like Sun, Mirror, Star have an assured future on building sites all of the nation. It's the ones in the middle that might struggle.
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[User Picture]From: pacerfox
2009-03-19 01:10 pm (UTC)
Big papers will. Then I think there will be small, eclectic papers in some towns. Like we have the Austin Chronicle and it's very popular.
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[User Picture]From: sabotlours
2009-03-19 02:04 pm (UTC)
I think the problem is that there was always something special about "the reporter." There was always a certain romanticism about the people that dug down deep to get to the facts. The Press had special badges that got you back stage or into the press conferences. What are we going to end up with? A whole bunch of bloggers? What separates us from the "fourth estate?"

If you think the Internet is a good place to get news and information, one only has to look at the clowns from Loose Change who put out that 9/11 conspiracy video. I saw people commenting things like, "Oooo! Thanks for finding out the truth!" when it was all a bunch of bullshit.

Perhaps a new position will arise and that instead of reporters there WILL be bloggers that act like them. The only problem is that the Internet seems to promote anonymity. Who said that? *shrugs* Some blogger. Perhaps that piece about why Obama will destroy this nation was put out by the Republican National Committee under some seemingly innocent name!

I think there will be some growing pains, but hopefully in the end we will still have folks doing the reporting and providing us with the truth and the facts.
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[User Picture]From: twopiearr
2009-03-19 02:13 pm (UTC)
the journalism standards are less about the medium and more about the people; bloggers are untrained in the finer points of it more than anything else. My guess is that as traditional print journalism outlets begin to dry up, print journalists will reinvent themselves as...not bloggers, exactly, I expect some sort of new category will crop up, though I'm fuzzy on the details. Blogging is already stratifying into a difference between dedicated-purpose content sites and more personal journals; I expect journalism to become something like a separate strata within that layer cake.

Edited at 2009-03-19 02:14 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: shockwave77598
2009-03-19 03:17 pm (UTC)
Agreed. A web newspaper can have the exact same standards of journalism as the printed newspaper. In fact, I insist upon it. If I want to read blogs, I come here. If I want news, I go to my local newspaper website. If a blogger lies through his teeth, hey, it's his blog and he can say what he likes. Let the newspaper do the same thing though, and see what happens.
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2009-03-20 04:01 pm (UTC)
This is the direction that I think things will go; journalism will migrate to a new forum, hopefully without losing the professionalism and standards.
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[User Picture]From: shockwave77598
2009-03-19 03:15 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry, and I romanticize about the printed media myself (being a writer.) But time marches on and progress has left the printing press in the history books. Ecologically and Economically, it is bad to continue to destroy expensive forests just to make a product that can only be used for one day, then tossed in the landfill. Especially since the web is always up to date, costs less in daily materials, and can have animations and video within them.

While I sympathize with the old farts at the barber shop who no longer have a newspaper to read, it isn't 1959 anymore with nickle gasoline and paper at a buck per ton. Paper and gas are far more expensive now, and throwaway newspapers are simply not affordable to make anymore.
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[User Picture]From: vermillionfox
2009-03-19 04:39 pm (UTC)
I'm also going to go with convenience being the major reason papers are going to stay likely for the next 50ish years. When people wake up and start breakfast, they don't have time to boot up windows before work. If they do start the comp, they'll overlook the time and risk being late, whereas a paper you can plop out and see the headlines. Heck most people don't even look at the headline, they just read the comics.

Also newspapers have a constant buyer market for people who don't read them. The arts and craft folks, schools, and mechanics all commonly use newspaper for projects on a common basis. Oh, that and coupon clippers. my god women clip those things like yoou wouldn't believe. D:

I do see many frilly papers going away in the next decade, and even half of the major city newspapaers. I can see them dropping out unnecessary sections like the food/movie ones or moving them to once a week. Most cities who lose a paper will migrate towards others that will stick around such as the NY Times and USA Today.

On another note, magazines.... those things are going to get hammered and I see a ton of them vanishing by 2020. Even MAD Magazine is now quarterly, and that says something.
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[User Picture]From: smack_jackal
2009-03-19 05:11 pm (UTC)
I think that big papers will fizzle out over time but I wouldn't peg a time-line to it exactly, it's hard to see what will happen with them during this down economy and increasing velocity toward digital content delivery.

The primary advantage that news papers have over both television and radio was that they could deliver a fairly large and diverse quantity of information to people much more quickly than either radio or television. You got a stack of informaiton in the morning and could sift through it quickly for the infomation most relavant to you; with radio and television you have to suffer through endless crap to get at the information that's critical to your interests and even then it's typically watered down.

With on-line delivery options, news consumers have access to a heap of information that they can sort through to find infromation most relavant to their interests. (wheter or not that information is of decent quality or not) The difference, though, is that they can pull from a an even wider range or sources at much cheaper (near to free) price for them. This shift makes paying for a phycially printed heap of paper pulp distinctly less attractive, it certainly does for me at least.

So the question is, how can a news paper make itself valid, vital and viable during this shift from print to digital delivery? Well, one of the aspects that I find missing is easy access to quality local reporting. Anybody can tap into one of the major news feeds (AP, Reuters, etc...) to get the condensed, stripped and TV-like summaries of the big stories but it's actually kind of hard to find good, quality local reporting or even halfway decent investigave reporting that digs past the surface gloss thrown out by the news wires.

I tend to beleive that if a news paper wants to continue to be successful they have to differntiate themselves from news agragators by providing original reporting content that is more geographically focused and more indepeth, quality reporting on the bigger issues than one typically gets glancing at news feeds. Basically, news papers need to drive eyes to their sites by getting back to what they're good at, quality local reporting. From there they can push upward to chip away at the bigger picture. It just requires that they invest in...oh...junior reporters, editors and local outreach. You know, exactly the items that they're cutting from their budgets.

They need to be able to drive local eyes to local advertisers with quality local reporting, IMHO.
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2009-03-20 04:06 pm (UTC)
they have to differntiate themselves from news agragators by providing original reporting content that is more geographically focused and more indepeth, quality reporting

I think you've hit the nail on the head here. (And, according to their statements, this is similar to what Seattle PI is trying to do with their transition -- we'll see how the experiment goes.)

The same quality reporting can be carried through a different medium but there's still a need for those stories and investigative journalism.
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[User Picture]From: orv
2009-03-19 05:48 pm (UTC)
The web may be free, but good journalism still costs money. It's not clear to me where bloggers will get stuff to link to if all the newspapers go under.
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[User Picture]From: captpackrat
2009-03-19 11:14 pm (UTC)
I get a daily newspaper, but it's delivered to my Kindle every morning. That is the future of newspapers, e-paper. Hearst is working on an e-reader of their own, specifically for newspapers.

I love my Kindle newspaper. I get to choose what paper I receive (I can receive the San Jose Mercury News even though I live in rural Nebraska), I don't have to walk out in the snow to pick it up from the end of the driveway and there are no worries about my next door neighbor swiping my paper. I also don't have to tip the paperboy or retrieve the paper from off the roof if I don't tip. And best of all, it's super green; there's no paper or toxic ink to wind up in the landfill.
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2009-03-20 04:08 pm (UTC)
Ah, but a Kindle or other reader is also a computer, though specialized. This was one of the things which spurred me to make my original comments: computers are starting to become pervasive enough and varied enough.
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2009-03-20 08:51 pm (UTC)
I understand. My point was simply that the role (and availability and portability and forms) of computers in our lives is changing.
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[User Picture]From: northing
2009-03-20 03:06 am (UTC)
I fear printed newspapers may be accelerating their own demise with their attempts to survive.

Many papers are adopting a more sensationalist style or blogging style with much less rigor and journalism ethics in order to appear more like trendy electronic news. But in doing so, they are giving up their stock in trade. And they can't hope to compete with the speed of the internet publishing once a day.

The Wall Street Journal is a good example of a strong paper, steeped in professional journalism, that is doing well. I think it will be one of the last to fall.

The P-I wasn't much like the Journal.
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[User Picture]From: kody_wolf
2009-03-20 08:18 am (UTC)
What's a newspaper? ;p
I used the internet for everything!
I think the last time I sat down and read a newspaper for 5+ years ago! LOL
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2009-03-20 04:10 pm (UTC)
Yep. I'm looking forward to having to explain the concept of "printed newspapers" to my son.
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[User Picture]From: kody_wolf
2009-03-20 05:17 pm (UTC)
What about Magzines? I think they will be around for many many years... Btw: I voted for "more - years than you'd think".
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