Thingish Things

The Paper Newspaper

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Apr• 05•11

Nobody roots for newspapers more than I do. I had one tucked under my arm at an embarrassingly early age, so it hurts me to say:¬† boy are hard copy papers in trouble. It’s not exactly a news flash, but the competitive advantage¬† of online journalism vs. print is growing increasingly obvious every day.

I am sitting on a train next to a woman reading stories I read 30 hours ago. She is reading a hard copy New York Times; I read the exact same words on the Times website yesterday afternoon — and happily paid for the privilege. (Momentum in the war in Libya has switched a half dozen times in that time span.) She and I aren’t competing for anything, but if we were, she’d be in trouble. As the saying goes, information is power. And whoever gets the information first can act on it.

A journalist friend of mine — a young old-school reporter — correctly pointed out to me last week that not all journalism is meant to be chugged. Some of it needs to be digested slowly, savored even. I agree. But for breaking news, speed is everything. And if newspapers can’t compete in the breaking news market, they will eventually cease being newspapers. They will become magazines.

Nobody working in my business today can survive reading hard copy papers alone. It would like entering a scavenger hunt without clues. I’m sure it’s the same for people in other businesses.

I am increasingly sanguine, though, about journalism’s ability to remain profitable. I was just thumbing through Rupert Murdoch’s subscription-based IPad invention, The Daily, and it seems to be gaining in attitude and depth every day. Its photographs are startlingly brilliant. I actually turned my IPad away from my Times-reading trainmate because I didn’t won’t to make her feel badly. The photos are that good.

One thing The Daily seems to be doing, though — perhaps necessarily — is dumbing down content. By making stories punchy and brief, they can fit on a single IPad page. But other online papers are remaining comprehensive, if not quite so beautifully.

Newspaper lovers, myself included, often convince ourselves with unconvincing arguments that the hard-copy newspaper will live on. But one quick scan of the aisles of a commuter railroad train will tell you the truth: “not a chance.”

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One Comment

  1. Your Friend says:

    The only print media I read these days is The New Yorker (the greatest magazine in the history of the world) and it is clearly not for chugging. If you haven’t read the insane story of the killing of Rodrigo Rosenberg in Guatemala yet, you owe it to yourself. But like the best stories in every issue of that magazine, it is as long as it is incredible. I have yet to read an issue on our iPad, but that’s in my future, I’m sure.

    As I mentioned in some prior post — CLICK ON THE ADS WHEN YOU”RE READING STORIES ONLINE!!! This is the only way for advertisers to know that their online ads are getting to the intended audience. The more that happens, the more online journalists (like you) can monetize their ads and develop a functioning online journalism business model.

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