Newspapers and magazines bemoan the decreasing interest in the print format. However, if they were smart, print outfits would realize that the barrier between their content and my money isn’t content itself or my lack of interest in news. The confounding factor is format.
I can put up with my favorite magazines (like National Geographic) because they have pretty pictures and charts, they are easy to navigate, and they don’t take up much space.
Newspapers, on the other hand, don’t have any of that going for them. I’m about as old-school as a 20-something can get. My college news profs made me read the paper every day and that habit is hard to break. But even I feel like buying and reading a newspaper is like taking vitamins. It’s good for me, I should do it, and it leaves a bad aftertaste.
Here’s the short list of what’s wrong with newspapers. Papers are an awkward size. They’re printed on the cheapest possible paper. The photos look bad. There’s no table of contents to reference. And I hate HATE shuffling around looking for the other half of that front page article back in “D3.” What is this? Battleship?
Notice what all these complaints have in common: They are all format problems. I still go to papers because I love the smart, deep, and wide coverage of local and international news. There’s nothing like the Wall Street Journal. Or the Times. I love finding an unexpected topic to think about or use later.
If papers find away to overcome the format issues that turn off the younger generation — if they weren’t bulky, if the photos looked good, if the text was more organized and searchable — print news could find a new start with the new generation of readers. While internet news is more easily accessible, my generation is savvy enough to know that not all sources are created equal. If newspapers were a bit more palatable, I’d swallow the vitamin in exchange for news from an unbiased source.
I think a lot of my peers would, too.
That’s what makes this proposal from the London Review of Books so very, very interesting:
The New York Times, if it stopped printing a physical edition of the paper, could afford to give every subscriber a free Kindle. Not the standard Kindle, but the one with free global data access. And not just one Kindle, but four Kindles. And not just once, but every year. And that’s using the low estimate for the costs of printing.
That is a staggering set of statistics. Imagine! If the Times stopped the presses, they could literally give every subscriber a free Kindle capable of downloading a daily edition from anywhere on the planet and stay current with technology by giving each subscriber a new Kindle every year. And still save money.
If the New York Times were to offer me a yearly subscription, delivered automatically, daily to a Kindle provided with my subscription I would jump on that without hesitation. That would solve all my problems with the newspaper format while preserving the in-depth, careful journalism I enjoy.
I could keyword search, bookmark, highlight, and annotate articles. Add a supporting website for archive purposes what would store “favorited” articles and provide archive access, and it would be a no-brainer.
If papers would simply adjust their format for delivering content, the next generation of citizens would have a reliable source for news. Plus, they wouldn’t have a reason to rag on the daily rags anymore.
Note: This post originally published in March. With today’s announcement of a new price point for Amazon’s entry-level e-reader, the article’s content is once again relevant to the discussion. – OW