Newspapers and Behavior Change

As I indicated some time earlier, I resubscribed to the NY Times (print edition) in something akin to patriotic fervor: I would do my part to help the newspapers, plus I have historically enjoyed reading the print version more than online or mobile.

I’m now several weeks “back in” and I’m finding it difficult to actually sit down and read the physical paper. It’s often the case that the newspaper doesn’t make it out of the plastic it arrived in. Yet I’m still obsessively reading news on  my iPod Touch and online. Why am I not reading the paper paper?

I think it’s because in the year or so that I stopped the NY Times print edition my habits and behavior have now shifted perhaps for the duration; I closed the print “hole” with new behaviors (mobile, more online). I also like the efficiency of the Times’ “Article Skimmer” for example.

What does it mean if I, a person who explicitly am buying the print edition to support it, am not finding the time to read it? The answer is fairly self-evident.

Newspapers have been around for hundreds of years. But if one looks at media historically we’re clearly now in a period of what might be called “tectonic change.” Things are being restructured probably in ways that are permanent.

The “news” is alive and well but print newspapers, at least in the US, are not. As with yellow pages, print newspapers now must become merely one of several content delivery “platforms.” The problem of course with that strategy, as YP has found, is revenues and getting money out of the digital products. (That’s a subject I’ve been discussing for a number of weeks.)

This week the NAA holds one of its many events in Las Vegas. I’m not there, although it would be very interesting I’m sure. This is perhaps the most important discussion (or one of them) at the event:

Future Business Models

The newspaper industry is undergoing an unprecedented period of transformation, rethinking every aspect of the franchise to better position the industry for the shifting landscape.  In this session, Jim Chisholm, principal at iMedia Advisory Services, will share the findings and recommendations from a comprehensive analysis on newspaper financial models for the future.  Following Jim, executives from newspapers who are rethinking the traditional publishing model will share the strategies and results from product transformations at their own companies.

Jim Chisholm, principal, iMedia Advisory Services
David Hunke, CEO, Detroit Media Partnership


Related: A survey of ideas from BusinessWeek on how to save newspapers: social networks, Yahoo!, micropayments, e-readers, etc.

There are two more interesting pieces from MediaPost today. First, Media News Group is testing the concept of a personalized newspaper (anticipated for at least 20 years) that could be viewed online, in mobile and/or printed. There are some quirks in the concept but it’s still interesting. The second piece is about Hearst contemplating making the Seattle PI (whose print edition is definitely ceasing operations) online only. The fate of Hearst’s SF Chronicle is also uncertain. Hearst may sell it or take it online only. It’s clear however that the publisher is seeking deep wage and benefits cuts as part of any scenario.

Regardless of the outcomes of these particular cases, the profession of journalism (except maybe TV journalism) is being hit very hard and degraded. If salaries fall dramatically it may attract many fewer people “going forward.” Of course there will also be fewer journalism jobs period.


5 Responses to “Newspapers and Behavior Change”

  1. Will Scott Says:


    I hadn’t seen the Article Skimmer before. That is so cool!

    Thank you,

  2. Greg Sterling Says:


  3. Paul Pedersen Says:

    I’m a little late on this comment (and my RSS reader as a whole) but I think you hit the nail on the head about the “tectonic change” occurring.

    As a newspaper employee, even I don’t even read the print edition. Why? Because life moves much faster than it did 10 years ago. With the activities of the day, who has time?

    On the flip side, when I stay with family on vacation, there are not many things I like more than getting up and reading the paper with a hot cup of coffee …even though it’s a paper about a community I’m not connected to. But then again, my life slows down on vacation.

    I’ve talked with my coworkers about this, and most experience the same phenomenon.

    It’s almost as if, to save newspapers, the world has to slow down. Sadly, I don’t see that happening any time soon …even though we all wish it to.

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    I think you’re right about time and change

  5. Mihmorandum | The *Apparent* Death of Journalism | For Fun Says:

    […] Sterling has written quite a bit about this topic in the last couple of months, and I’ve left quite a few rather pithy comments on his blog to the effect […]

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