While I am a fan of quality journalism, I hardly ever read a newspaper. I’ve always felt that they were just not worth dealing with and were too old fashioned in that they seemed to be delivering yesterday’s news which didn’t make sense to me.
I still stand by my opinion that news stories are worthless for the majority of people who are comfortable with using online means to read the latest headlines. There will always be a market for the traditional printed newspaper, but that audience will continue to diminish over time.
Where newspapers are still relevant is in their opinion pieces and use of columnists, sometimes celebrities to offer articles that are exclusive to that media outlet. This gives readers an incentive to opt for that particular publication. Things like exclusive offers and competitions also help. The issue here is that while opinion pieces and other content still work for printed media, online is suitable for not only these, but real time reporting of headline news as well.
A few days ago I decided to experiment by purchasing a weekday edition of the Guardian. I found a few articles that I enjoyed, but a lot of it I ended up just skimming through. I was surprised to go on the Guardian website and find that everything I just read in the newspaper I paid £1 for was there for free. The entire contents of every edition of the paper is listed on the site and made very easy to find. The iPhone App I have is also very convenient and while not ideal for the eyes at times, only costs the same as just over two weekday editions of the paper, and that’s for permanent access to the app. That seems pretty good value for ad-free viewing of all articles on the site.
It’s hard for me to understand why many people would pay a pound or more every day for something that is easier to navigate, read and free to view online. While sometimes it is nice to have a paper in your hands to read, it’s not such a nice feeling to make it worth wasting money, not to mention paper on every day.
The only real downside of reading on a backlit computer, iPod or iPad style screen is that you do have to deal with the effects on your eyes. However, as long as you don’t read for hours at a time and take breaks, you should be fine. With the coming to prominence of e-ink screens though, this problem will subside and the true digital revolution of newspapers can take place.
I’m not sure which of the subscription based model of the times.co.uk or the advertising based models of the other main news outlets is the better one, but obviously free content is preferable as long as the company can make money from it. In the end, I hope to see digital subscription or advertising based versions of newspapers become the norm and accessible via devices like the Kindle, iPad as well as in our browsers. These are already realities, but I hope as devices get more powerful, cheaper and easier on our eyes, more and more people feel compelled to give digital reading a try.
To me, a printed newspaper is a thing of the past at this point, but I appreciate that not everyone will agree with my point of view. What really counts at the end of the day is the content, and quality journalism is still just that whether it is printed on paper or viewable on a digital device.