January 10, 2006

I. Never. Got. Newsprint.

Stowe has another interesting post -- this time discussing the trend away from hard copy newsprint landing in our driveways (AKA: newspapers) to online news sources. Stowe refers to Michael Kinsley's article in the Washington Post (that I'm reading online... get it?) Black and White and Dead All Over.

We used to get one poor sales rep a month at our front door telling us about the savings we could reap by subscribing to the weekly Atlanta Journal Constitution and getting the weekend paper (with all those valuable Sunday coupons!) for free.

Since 1999 I have repeated a single phrase in response: "I get my news online."

They don't come anymore, but they did still call until about a year ago. When they did, I would utter my pat line: "I get my news online."

Their positioning then is what it is today--don't forget the valuable Sunday coupons!

How long will it take them to realize you can print those same coupons--and sometimes better deals--out on the retailer's-restaurant's-grocery-store's site for, uh, free. And that when you average the savings from the number of coupons I remember to bring to the grocery store with cost of having the paper delivered, I'm still ROIs ahead on my non-purchase of newsprint. And that the same companies they rely on for advertising dollars are getting at their customers with loyalty programs fed off databases fed by online interactions and participation.

And I don't mean to pick on the AJC. I'm just as tired of having those community dead-trees encased in plastic sleeves left on my rainy driveway to (attempt to) decay.

I was born in 1962. I'm not sure if this has anything to do with it, but I have never been a fan of newsprint. Growing up I would ask my mother, as I struggled to manage its unwieldily size and number of creases, "Why do they MAKE these papers so BIG." I thought when I grew up, I'd learn how to master folding them like origami, whittling them down to just the story I wanted to read, like the men who smoked pipes in their easy chairs on TV.

But I never mastered the physical art of reading a newspaper. So I didn't read them much. I just didn't get it.

There. I've said it. A summa cum laude, Journalism major (English double).

Never. Figured. It. Out.

Except for the fine art of lead writing demonstrated on the front page of the WSJ, I never caught on to the big love affair with newsprint in any shape or form. I guess I was genetically skewed toward the net from the get-go.

There's a comment on Stowe's post by Marshall Kirkpatrick pointing out that a computer can't replicate the tactile paper-in-hand sensation of newsprint. That's true. And I'm a paper lover (not a newsprint lover) from way back. But with all the frustration newsprint brings me, I can stand to give up the tactile part. As to the importance of the community/regional perspective, I'm not sure those are good enough reasons to pay them to bring the local paper to my doorstep. But I admit, I'm not everyman.

Marshall makes a good point that local newspapers bring a certain something that Google News and Yahoo! don't. But I disagree that what they bring is 'better than' what you can find online. For free. In fact, since newspapers are published by corporations, I inherently temper my view of what I read in them with what I read in blogs. As Kinsley jokes in the article:

You gotta trust something called the "Post-Intelligencer" more than something called "Yahoo" or "Google," don't you? No, seriously, don't you? Okay, how old did you say you are?

Do I want to read the AJC -- either in print or online -- not as often as I consult my own personal, vetted, trustworthy sources on the net. The ones I have relationships with. Even in the event of a natural disaster, online hubs of concerned citizens and citizen journalists seem to launch-and-tell faster and more thoroughly than any established newspaper.

So for my regional flavor, I'd rather read Atlanta Voic.us or Atlanta Metblog for a community perspective, or if it's something I'm looking to buy or sell, I might check the AJC's online classifieds, but most likely I'll go to cragslist atlanta to get the job done.

And with so many journalists now blogging and bloggers now considered journalists, the editorial/content part of journalism is merging with old-school media, whether the newspapers want it to or not.

And here's an odd twist: I'll buy books by bloggers who reprint parts of their blogs, because THAT takes online stories and packages them up in a way I can enjoy them while I'm relaxing OFFLINE. In the tub. In bed. Traveling. But I don't want to fight a gazillion-inch piece of newsprint to tell me something I already heard online two days ago--and take my $ for telling me.

And I didn't ask anyone to toss it in my driveway for free either.


peter said...

local newspaper also protects geographic communities. In an increasingly global world the value of a local newspaper is that it continues to identify with and for the local community.

The argument surely is that they need using the developments in technology to become more local to remain relevant.

Also the subject of brand is vital. If google were to ask its readers to cross a major road - nothing. A local newspaper with more than a century of tradition does the same and they ring up and ask "what time".

How many people go on holiday through Google none how many go on holidays or events sponsored by their local newspaper - millions.

Jeneane Sessum said...

I don't know, Peter. I wouldn't cross any road because I saw it in a newspaper. I would cross a road if the local folks I've built trust-relationships with online (who I haven't met; just like the newspaper editor) said it was important.

Maybe it's not about Google vs Newsprint. That's just replicating the offline world. It's about my best friends i've never met locally and globally vs. a media outlet i never met. Google (and moreso social networking tools) offer the technology that helps build and strengthen online (and off) relationships.

fpaynter said...

ROI... hmmm, is that kinda like ROTFLMAO????

I tithe to the local leftist daily fishwrap. I buy one every day. Read Doonesbury. Maybe the editorials, since I'm bound to agree with them. Look for coverage of my local causes.

But I get my news online.

Also, I leave that ugly wad of newsprint far from home. I hate the whole recycle thing. That's why I'll never have a Sunday fishwrap delivered.

But sometimes I buy an urban metro paper and wallow in the upscale magazine pieces, and marvel at the cultural opportunities they have there in the big ci-tay.

So I see this as less an either-or thing than a both-and thing. Words is good, no matter where you find them.

Jon Husband said...

I now only read newspapers in cafes or airports, and only if someone leaves them lying aoriound. That's it, that's all ... as a time-waster, something to do while drinking a coffee and waiting.

I.Get. My. News. Online.