I’ll admit, my household still subscribes to an actual physical newspaper. Well it’s not too surprising since many Americans do as well. However, the idea of digital newspapers has long since been here, but aside from a few things, digital newspapers are the way to go.
Here are the only few (sensible) advantages why I see people buy the newspaper (and how it’s not too exclusive if papers were gone):
- Coupons – From my experience, digital coupons don’t have as good a variety as the ones that come with the paper. Don’t know why, but even the supermarket’s selection for your member card is rather poor. (could easily be remedied if businesses put more of their coupons online)
- Secondary uses – It’s useful for containing food spills, making your own cheap confetti, and various projects like painting, paper mache, and other arts. (There can be post-recycled paper sold, without the cost of ink and reporting).
- Special displays – Rarely, the paper may have a nice large infographic spread on a topic, or a wall-worthy poster spread on something. Just worthy enough of keeping at least. (News companies could be nice enough to put it online as well, or available to purchase a print on it)
- Keeping jobs – There does have to be people that design the paper’s layout, supply the paper, run and maintain the machines, distributes them via car, etc. These people have jobs, and can make and spend money. (There are other jobs out there, and the idea of jobs existing based on outdated modes isn’t too great of an advantage)
- Access to ‘print-only’ articles – My newspaper does a ridiculous thing, where on Sundays, they have a higher amount of special original (non-AP) articles, that they claim is only in the print version, and not online. Though after awhile, or even a day after, I find out it does go up online. It’s really dumb, in my opinion. (How about the news company gets that people will go elsewhere online if you don’t provide it?)
Now, all the negatives:
- News gets old fast– New news comes up quickly. Most papers no longer run in the morning and evening formats. So if you depend on the paper for news, it’d take another day for the day’s news to come. Especially weather info.
- Cumbersome to read– Big articles start on one page, but you have to flip through and find it on the next page. Have to position the paper well enough when you want to read inside it.
- Clipping articles that run on both sides– There are plenty of times when you want to clip an article out, but the article runs on both sides of the same sheet unevenly. You need to clip carefully around the sheet so you can get the whole article.
- All the ads– I’d like to wager that at least 40% of the entire daily newspaper real estate is just ads. We’re talking about classifieds, banners, obituaries, full page spreads, half page spreads, coupons, weekly store guides, stick-on ads, etc. Sometimes, one can even say articles themselves may serve as an ad for some businesses. Online, it doesn’t usually seem so noticeable or it doesn’t get in the way.
- The non-green aspect– Sure, you can have it made of post-consumer paper, you can recycle it, but that’s about it. However, paper recycling has some inefficiencies not yet solved, so there are a good amount of trees that get knocked down just so people can throw away the paper the next day. The manufacturing requires lots of energy and water. Distribution involves primarily fossil fuels to deliver to doorsteps and newstands around the world. Newspapers can get unsold and tossed, making it even more wasteful.
- Less engaging– You read an article, and you just get that one representation of the facts or opinion of this journalist. Online, given comments are allowed, you can get enriched with more of the same or different opinions and facts. There may also be more multimedia through video, audio, and interactive infographics. More than what a picture does.
- Black and white pictures– Color ink is usually expensive. Newspapers usually don’t bother making any of the inner pages of the paper color, though they might sometimes. I think most people prefer color than black-and-white images.
- Getting stolen or destroyed– The delivery person is on a tight schedule with his or her van, and they rarely have time to deliver papers directly to your door. As a result, the paper (even when they come in plastic sleeves like ours) can be susceptible to creeping grass dew, rain, or even snow. If on the rare chance it gets stolen or unfound, it might take the next day to receive it as the company probably won’t make special trips.
- Limited news– Sometimes newspapers would love to cram some more articles into one day’s paper, but there isn’t enough allowable room to make it feasible. Other times, they’ll have to cut down some details in other articles to make room for more articles. No such issues with the Internet-based news.
- Less media – With a physical paper, you may lose out on more, bigger pictures, videos, and audio that relate to the article.
- Link to source documents – It’s easier to give an option to navigate to another website or a PDF/DOCX than it is to print it out in newsprint. Source documents like reports, memos, press releases, full speech transcripts, and others so that people can arrive at their own conclusion and see the cold hard facts.
- Multiplier effect – You can share news more easily with the click of a button, and send it to friends via e-mail, social networks, or even IM clients. Even more people are informed and visit the site.
All in all, I can completely see traditional newspapers completely phased out in the new few decades. The only advantages of the traditional model are rather weak, and can easily be overcome by better solutions.
If it weren’t for the coupons and the fact that my newspaper’s website could use some better coding, then I’d completely drop the physical paper quickly. Hopefully, all the major newspapers can see the light, and find better ways to make an online model work out in terms of profit and convenience for the subscribers.