I love the sensations a printed newspaper offers. The scent, the feel, the look of it. It’s part of the nostalgia that is print. Nostalgia? Yes, nostalgia. A printed newspaper is a way we used to read our news. For the first time ever, more people read their news online versus in print. All the fit-for-print news is now fit-for-digital too.
This finding is from recent Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism surveys that found 34% read news online within a 24 hour period before the survey, compared to 31% read newspapers. I know, it’s a slim margin… but it’s still a margin.
For me, it’s a question of convenience. A newspaper isn’t that practical anymore for me. When I can access the world’s news on my smartphone or Kindle, wherever I am, it doesn’t make sense to have the paper dropped at the end of my driveway anymore. I know a lot of you will disagree, but sooner or later, you’ll have to let go. Print is dying, a long, slow death. Just like Morse code, bunny ears, and typewriters, advancements in technology push out the old.
Maybe the survey was flawed? A fluke? Maybe people only read online news more in that random 24 hour period? Nope. The survey also looked at general patterns of news consumption, such as where do people get most of their news from? 41% of respondents said in general they get most of their news online (a 10% margin over newspaper readers). The numbers get higher the younger you go, with 65% of 18-29-year-olds getting their news online. Granted, local television is still the number one source of news for people, but when it comes to the news you read, online news is where it’s at.
The Annual State of the News Media Report from Poynter adds supports this point. Poynter recently reported the only news medium to experience year-over-year growth was online news media. Radio, TV, magazines, etc. – all experienced a decline. The only concern I have from any of this data is the drop in people who read their news. When asked if they read their news – in any format – only 40% said yes. Yikes. Call me crazy, but I think reading the news is important for staying informed and maintaining overall brain fitness.
What’s This Mean for Journalism?
If you still think print is going to rebound, you’re in denial. Much in the way you’d be in denial to think typewriters are going to make a comeback. The writing is on the wall, and the wall runs on electricity or batteries. But you know what? That doesn’t really change journalism. If you write for The New York Times, you can still write for The New York Times. How I read your articles may change, but how you write them doesn’t have to.
I think that’s the big part of this problem in this ‘print is dead’ debate. Nothing about the fundamentals of producing great journalism has changed. The tools for production, distribution, and consumption have changed, that’s it. We haven’t figured out a way to replace journalists with technology, and I hope we never do.
So I get my news online… except for this morning, I just paid for The New York Times at Starbucks, even though I can read it for free on Starbucks’ new content portal. You know, I want to enjoy it while it lasts.