A few reasons I don’t do print news (or book clubs)

I was briefly brainstorming with a friend and colleague today over business model ideas for our publishing clients. Our company supports magazines with back-end solutions – it’s a volume business. More is better.

But the reality is, today there is less and less print business. There’s less subscribers. We’re all scratching our heads.

I don’t have an answer for saving the print publication industry. Clearly, nobody does immediately.

But I can start to tell you why I don’t subscribe to any print magazines or newspapers, despite being a complete news junkie.

1.) I find print media inconvenient and inefficient

I never understood the claim – ‘People like print because you can feel it.’

Huh? I think people getting their johnnies off from physically handling their news source is vastly overrated.

Glossy magazines are handy only when leisurely reading. Waiting rooms and toilets come to mind.

And newspapers – actually handling a newspaper is an acquired skill. They’re big, unbound messes. Taking one apart generally results in a crumpled, unmanageable paper pile.

Reality is, most of the time I’m consuming news, not casually enjoying it.

2.) I heart links

Where are the links? I’m spoiled and find print media too narrow when I can’t quickly jump to another source or find more information. I’m talking links to video, to Wikipedia and blogs like mine.

3.) Give me headlines, I’ll decide if I want more

Magazines have tables of contents (TOC’s, for jargon). That’s all I initially need. I read my Des Moines Register news today through an RSS feed. Through it, all I see is headlines (about 100 over the course of a day) and the first 15 words or so. I probably click through to read about five stories a day. It’s perfect.

4.) Nothing is more current than online news

Short of being a witness, nothing is quicker than digital news. Old news is an oxymoron.

5.) Online news is free

Whether you agree with it or not, online news is 99% free, thanks to advertising. I’m not sure this is a sustainable business model or not. Part of the problem is that we still haven’t figured out how to advertise effectively online yet. Brian Clark at Copyblogger had an insightful post on this issue recently.

Either way, today, online news is free. Print news costs me money.

So what can we do? It’s not that I’m anti-print. I mean, I read books constantly. But then again, I don’t join book clubs.

Is it the on-demand nature of the Web that has changed our habits? People constantly speak of the media shift from one-to-many to many-to-many. We don’t wait on the news anymore. There isn’t much need for categorizing and organizing beyond Google and various breaking news feeds – which has traditionally been a major component of print news. People make careers of laying out news pages and deciding what should be seen in what order.

Online, we do that ourselves.

Not sure what to make of this. Like many in the media world, I’m still pondering it. Still talking about it. Still wondering what the industry will look like in a year, five years, 30 years.

But I can tell you this: I don’t subscribe to newspapers. I don’t subscribe to magazines. I don’t do book clubs.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “A few reasons I don’t do print news (or book clubs)

  1. I forgot to mention that sometimes I read Register, CNN and Huffington Post stories just to see the reader reactions.

    Often I find thought-provoking nuggets in there amongst the banter. Sure, the signal v. noise ratio is much murkier down there, but I always peek at the reader comments.

  2. Hmm. You raise some interesting points here. But I have to admit, as much time as I spend reading news online, scrolling through RSS feeds, and catching up on blogs, there’s something about sitting down with a magazine or newspaper that I’m a huge fan of.

    Perhaps I’m biased since I work in magazines and, as such, can justify my voracious consumption of them. But I’m at my computer all day, so I love the opportunity to move away from it and read printed words on a page. Of course, the stack of magazines beside my desk right now is evidence that I don’t spend enough time with them (and, perhaps, that I subscribe to too many!).

    At the same time, I don’t subscribe to a newspaper and get all my news online now. So I guess I’m straddling the fence there …

    Do I see print news and magazines giving way to all-digital information, all the time? Nope. But as magazines and newspapers build online media into their brands more and more, I think we’ll continue to see more dollars going to the web, and the print and online components will become increasingly integrated. (Live links in “print” publications? Somehow, it’s not as far-reaching as it sounds.)

  3. I would agree – at least for the reasonable future (i.e., my lifetime) that print is here to stay in some form or another.

    But particularly in the field of news, I think the clock is ticking. Print news, again, by default, is an oxymoron.

    Again, the above post is looking at print vs. digital from a purely practical perspective. There are times when print makes sense. Off the top of my head: Traveling, sitting in a waiting room, relaxing by the fireplace…

    But that’s not enough to save all the newspapers and all the magazines (or even all the books). Some will survive. Others won’t.

    But perhaps my biggest point is, why does it matter? Good content will never cease to be in high demand. As there is more and more noise out there, there is a much bigger demand for true signal.

    I don’t understand why so many journalists and writers are so concerned with how the message reaches the audience. Rather, hasn’t it always been about the message itself?

    I always feel like a hippie when I say this stuff, mostly because I don’t have a business model I can hand out.

    But I’m excited for the future of the industry and how quickly things are growing and changing.

    Thanks for the comment Julie! Good stuff!

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