At the International Newsroom Summit in London this week, NYTimes publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., made waves when he suggested that “We will stop printing the New York Times sometime in the future, date TBD.”
Don’t panic, my fellow “coastal liberals,” he meant physical printing, not going out of business.
Will we see the death of print publications? As an avid user of smartphones and tablet computers, I can certainly see the attraction as a consumer: instant access to the most up-to-date, multimedia news content, from any device, anywhere.
The trends are hard to deny. The world’s population is even more wild about the mobile Internet than U.S. consumers. According to a 2009 report by Netpop, 18M Americans surf the mobile web, compared to a whopping 100M users in China — who certainly still lag the U.S. in terms of consumer spending, especially on luxury items: the Chinese citizenry increasingly view accessing the mobile web a “must-have.”
So, yea, it’s easy to think that the physical newspaper will eventually fade away. Would this be a bad thing?
As an old-timer, I’d surely miss the smudge of newsprint on my fingertips, and the physical “smell” of the news. I’d miss the authoritative crack of folding the paper from one section to another.
“Utter lack of SEO value” notwithstanding, the tangible newspaper would be a sad thing to lose in the march of progress.
But … think of the production costs involved! The care required for the increasingly antiquated machinery. The labor unions. The truck drivers and other production & delivery staff. The vast number of trees required to create a document that’s been plunging in popularity amongst consumers, and which is useless (except to your parakeet) within 24 hours. We are talking jillions of dollars.
While it would truly be a shame to view the death of print in our lifetimes (especially for those blue-collar workers who bust their asses to get the newspaper out the door), imagine if those funds could be spent on content production? On making the news hyperlocal, personal? On multimedia elements that draw the reader into stories, with a richness that pure text can never quite achieve?
The death of print? Eventually, yea. And once you push past the sentimentality, that’s gonna be a good thing.
Posted on: September 10, 2010 at 12:16 pm By Todd Defren