I just realized how much my weekend mornings have changed. I no longer subscribe to any newspapers (print or digital!)Hard to believe for a newspaper man like me. I am not your typical newspaper man. I am neither a journalist or a writer, rather I am someone who has worked in a few newspaper trenches. In an earlier blog, I talked about handling the type setting of a newspaper I started in college. During those years, I also worked at a small paper called the Cape Codder, (which has been bought by a company that has a weird name, wickedlocal.com, and just a website) where I hand-collated newspapers. (Hand collating is the lost art of getting paper cuts and is such a lost art that there’s no Youtube video demonstrating how to do it. The closes I came was finding this video on hand collating post cards on basketball players and teams)
This was before big machines could do some of the heavy lifting and integrating of newspaper sections. But those days are long gone, and soon publications will probably disappear.
I am reminded of publishers and printers fear of the future and their desperate behavior each day. Especially whenever it becomes time to renew. I usually wait until they have contacted me four or five times because by then, they only charge $10 for a year subscription. This morning it was Time magazine’s turn. Last week it was Popular Science, one of my favorite magazines. As David Carr, a well known writer for the New York Times pointed out a few months ago “There are smart people trying to innovate, and tons of great journalism is published daily, but the financial distress is more visible by the week.” This problem exists for both newspapers and magazines. Some savvy traditional printers, such as RR Donnelly, however, realize that the need to expand into other types of publishing businesses. They have purchased a self-publishing website and a technology that has an online payment systems for publishers.
While I am clearly not the first person to write about this phenomenon, I am amazed about how many people in the business seem to be fighting this trend. And by the lack innovativeness. Most magazines on the iPad look like the editors can’t think out of the box and are literally taking the same things that worked in the old days and trying to repurpose their content for a new medium. And then there’s the pricing issue. Some are keeping the same price for print and just throwing in ‘digital platforms’ as freebees for their users. Where’s the creative thinking here? We seem to be grasping for old straws.
As Barron’s Online columnist Howard R. Gold recently explained: “A crisis of confidence has combined with a technological revolution and structural economic change to create what can only be described as a perfect storm… [P]rint’s business model is imploding as younger readers turn toward free tabloids and electronic media to get news.”
This trend is also being seen with radio and television news. What gives?
Maybe there’s a bigger issue here. And that’s the skepticism of the 21st Century. The ink is really drying up for ‘print.’ A recent study of the news industry by the Annenberg Center for the Digital Future at the Southern California found that most internet users have limited trust in the information they find online and the sources that provide that information. “Only 40% of users said that most or all of the information on the Internet is reliable – a decline from 55% in 2000.”
Ah, that trust word again. How do you build trust?