Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More on Newspapers

Alex Goodall has offered another excellent analysis of 'the death of newspapers':

I can only speak for a sampling of one person – me – but I stopped buying newspapers a long time ago. In fact, I stopped well before I started getting my news from the Internet.
Well, no, it speaks for a sample of at least two, because I can relate to all of it. Continuing:
I preferred to go to the few good TV news programmes instead (Newsnight, for instance), which didn’t waste my time telling me what ‘Bennifer’ was getting up to, or how I should wear my hair to best look like a Shoreditch journalist. I do read individual news reports from the press online, but never more than a couple of pieces from any single source: for which I think the ad revenue they accrue is probably reasonable. Meanwhile, I subscribe to The New Yorker and The London Review of Books, and regularly buy The New York Review of Books, The Economist, and other news magazines, all of which cost substantially more than a daily paper. So the total pot of money I spend on journalism has not only held up, it’s probably grown. My licence fee to the BBC is still being paid, the magazines are getting a fair whack of my disposable income, it’s just that only a little of it goes to newspapers anymore.

Why still pay for magazines if supposedly the internet's destruction of paying for quality journalism is to blame? Well, in my case the answer is simple: the magazines didn’t run off and try to be all things to all people, the magazines didn’t show contempt or ignorance of their readership. They understood their brand, they understood what their readers wanted, and they focused on delivering it, in a quality format.
In my own case, I dropped my local paper, The Oregonian, for the last and final time at least fifteen years ago, frustrated with the daily inundation of sales circulars, real estate boosterism, assorted inane fluff, and news coverage consisting more and more of lazily-reprinted wire stories.

The truth is, something like classified ads are genuinely useful when you need classified ads, but I don't know anyone who needs to check the classified ads every day, let alone all types of classified ads every day. Why would anyone pay for a product of any description whose ratio of 'uninteresting/useless' to 'interesting/useful' is upwards of 30 to 1, or even higher? Who would buy such a book? Who would watch a movie or tee-vee program on those terms? The curiosity to be explained is why newspapers have endured as long as they have, not why they're struggling.

In my case, it was not the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad internets that doomed the newspaper. Like Alex Goodall, I came to realize I could follow current events and topics of interest most effectively through magazines and select programs on radio and television. And then the web came along, adding ever-expanding avenues through which to find interesting and useful material, only some of which happens to have originated in a newspaper.

I don't want "all things" because I am not "all people," so I don't want the newspaper. I don't foresee ever renewing my paid subscription to the local paper, not because it carries nothing of value, but because it offers scant value for the money.


Alex said...

Glad to hear there's two of us, Dale! If I was a newspaper editor, I'd say that was probably enough to call it a trend. Three, and we can justify a full page weekend spread.


Dale said...

Alex, if that three-page spread could somehow be parlayed into a car sales promotional that also works in a mention or two of the BIG SALE going on at the local clothing store, then it's absolutely and unquestionably 'fit to print' in any newspaper.

Alex said...