The printed newspaper died for me three years ago, replaced by Google News and its brother, Google Reader . A newspaper for me is best read off the screen, fresh, fast, and digital. Bit by electronic bit, I stopped reading the print versions of the Manila Bulletin, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and the Philippine Star.
Maybe I had tired of the stereotypes fostered by the local broadsheets – the screaming columnists at the Inquirer Op-Ed pages, the tepid press release journalism of the Bulletin, or the retarded writing style of the celebrity lifestyle columnists of the Philippine Star, who couldn’t write to save their pampered behinds.
Or perhaps I had grown tired of the stacks of newspapers that had accumulated in the garage. I own no birds, so I had no need to line a birdcage.
But mostly I wanted choices and an extended world view. So I took to reading the online versions of The Washington Post, the New York Times, The Guardian, The Times of London, The San Fransciso Chronicle, and the San Jose Mercury News.
On occasion, I will read an article off the electronic versions of the Bulletin, Inquirer, and Star, but only if I’m led there through a URL.
And when I discovered RSS feeds, I subscribed to the feeds of these online newspapers , and got the news as a continuous roll of electronic paper that my eyes soaked up like a sponge.
And then there were the blogs. Tech blogs. Food blogs. Music blogs. Film Blogs. Political blogs. So much to read. Breaking news, fast, free, and unfiltered. Who had time to buy magazines anymore?
People have been trumpeting the death of the printed newspaper for years, losing the battle to the online media. I paid no such attention to what others thought – I made a personal choice. Online is clean and convenient. No paper to throw away.
There are a couple of good think pieces found online that highlight this phenomenon. On the online edition of The New Yorker is Eric Alterman’s “Out of Print – The Death and Life of the American Newspaper”.
Philip Meyer, in his book “The Vanishing Newspaper” (2004), predicts that the final copy of the final newspaper will appear on somebody’s doorstep one day in 2043. It may be unkind to point out that all these parlous trends coincide with the opening, this spring, of the $450-million Newseum, in Washington, D.C., but, more and more, what Bill Keller calls “that lovable old-fashioned bundle of ink and cellulose” is starting to feel like an artifact ready for display under glass.
Taking its place, of course, is the Internet, which is about to pass newspapers as a source of political news for American readers. For young people, and for the most politically engaged, it has already done so. As early as May, 2004, newspapers had become the least preferred source for news among younger people. According to “Abandoning the News,” published by the Carnegie Corporation, thirty-nine per cent of respondents under the age of thirty-five told researchers that they expected to use the Internet in the future for news purposes; just eight per cent said that they would rely on a newspaper. It is a point of ironic injustice, perhaps, that when a reader surfs the Web in search of political news he frequently ends up at a site that is merely aggregating journalistic work that originated in a newspaper, but that fact is not likely to save any newspaper jobs or increase papers’ stock valuation.
Now that is a clear death knell right there. Ask not for whom the bells toll, as it is clearly obvious.
But recognizing that behind every cloud is a silver lining – sometimes lurking online – the New York Times also publishes the tale of tech publisher IDG, thriving in an online world. IDG publishes the geek tomes PC World, Computerworld, Macworld, and CIO.
In the article “Publisher Tested the Waters Online, Then Dove In”, Steve Lohr reports that 52% of their current advertising revenue stems from online ads, while 48% comes from the print editions.
IDG believed in online so much, it pulled the plug on the print edition of one of its longest running titles, the much-respected InfoWorld. But InfoWorld lives on online. The resulting news website generates ad revenue of $1.6 Million a month, with operating profit margins of 37 percent.
That’s clearly where the wind is blowing. Adapt, or perish.