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Are newspapers dead?

April 9, 2007

In case you’ve been living in a cave, the newspaper business is in trouble.

I don’t know a single person born after 1976 that subscribes to a newspaper. I never have, and no-one I know from my generation has, either. Why would we? We could get all of our news online before I even graduated high school.

But I do read newspapers. I just consume them differently than people historically have – I pick and choose my favorite bits from the world’s papers, instead of reading my local paper cover-to-cover every morning. There’s certainly still a place in this world for newspapers – just maybe sans paper. How do I know?

This article is proof in and of itself. One of the world’s most renowned musicians, Joshua Bell, gave an impromptu concert in the DC Metro with his $3.5M violin, and the Washington Post has one of the best articles I’ve ever read about it. Beautifully written, see for yourself, you’ll love it. And if you needed it, it reminds you why traditional media still has a place in this world. (Thanks Matt!)

Oh, and in case you hadn’t already heard, Sam Zell is an idiot. Newspapers are doomed if you listen to his crap.

Categories: business
  1. April 9, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    It seems unfair to call Zell an idiot. Highly ignorant, yes, but an idiot?

  2. April 9, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    I suppose my definition of ‘idiot’ IS ‘highly ignorant’. 🙂

    He’s a billionaire. He’s supposed to know about this business. How can he be so off the mark?

    I highly doubt he’s ignorant of the way newspapers work and how Google works….

  3. Ben Marklein
    April 9, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    That article has been the subject of some debate in the blogosphere. Some people thought it was condescending and elitist. I tend to agree about the way it was presented, although I still think it was an interesting experiment.

  4. April 9, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    What are some of your news-reading habits? I’m going to start a daily morning news show online; I’m honing my news researching skills.

  5. April 9, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    @Nick Douglas:

    Google Reader with subscriptions to the sites and sources I care about. This is easily my #1 source these days.

    Google Alerts, with my favorite keywords & phrases dumping into my Inbox. Adds to inbox clutter, but at least I don’t have to sift – Google sifts for me.

    Twitter has become a surprising source for me, since people I care about tend to post important URLs there. I had no idea I’d rely on it for news, but for industry stuff, it’s gotten quite good.

    Digg, though there are some major cracks showing in that armor. Lots of great stories never make it to the front page, and the political mess there is unbelievable.

    TechMeme and TailRank for hot blog topics. I’m not a huge blog fire chaser, so the way I use these varies greatly depending on if I’m busy or not.

    Google News used to be a staple, but it’s being replaced by Google Reader a great deal for me. Still good for world news and such.

    In print, I still peruse Fortune the most. Forbes and BusinessWeek occasionally. Nothing tech related in print anymore, though, and hasn’t been for years and years.

    Holler if you want more insight. 🙂

  6. Alex
    April 9, 2007 at 9:59 pm

    I was born after 1976 and subscribe both to the Globe and Mail (Canada, national), the NYT and the Economist. My feed reader is stuffed with all sorts of great feeds, but there is something irreplaceable about a print publication. Flipping through the pages of a high-quality newspaper or magazine, I can almost feel the benevolent hand of an editorial staff pointing me towards all sorts of stories I never would have clicked on. For serious news, I would much, much rather trust in a venerable institution than a blogger.

    Not to mention the joy of opening a double page spread, replete with info graphics and sidebars.

    I sure hope print is here to stay – there’s really nothing like it.

  7. April 9, 2007 at 11:10 pm


    Thanks for the input.

    I’m not sure why I have an emotional attachment to printed books (while still loving my Sony Reader), but to newsprint, but there it is. Inexplicable, but true.

    I want to stress that I still read and love newspapers (and magazines) – NYT, WSJ, etc. I just don’t read them in print. And I certainly don’t read all of them – only the ones that digital tools have somehow brought to my attention.

  8. PanMan
    April 10, 2007 at 2:18 am

    I’m born after that, and I have had a newspaper subscription (but don’t have one now). I agree you don’t need a newspaper to keep up with the news, these days. But that’s why I especially like a new dutch newspaper (Nrc Next), that hardly provides any news, but it does provide the background information, colums, and so.
    And paper is still the easiest for commutes (I want my E-paper!).

  9. April 10, 2007 at 6:25 am

    Thanks for sharing the link and thoughts. That article struck me in a different way, reminding me that often we are so busy each day that we miss some of the simple, finer things in life around us. Though not everyone is “in” to classical music, how silly many of those 1,097 people must feel after seeing this article and realizing what they were too much in a hurry to appreciate.

  10. April 10, 2007 at 7:41 am

    Don- thanks for the article link, I really enjoyed that. After I realized how long it was I had a decision to make: continue reading a well-written, interesting article at work or answer the 3 e-mails that had come in since I started. I’m glad I chose to spend those 15 minutes reading; I’m not so certain my boss would agree! But I feel better for it. Maybe this has something to do with why I enjoy photography so much – it’s not something you can rush, and in order to do it well you have to take note of your entire surroundings.

  11. Michelle
    April 10, 2007 at 7:58 am

    There is a great response to the Joshua Bell article by a NYC subway musician in her blog: http://www.SawLady.com/blog
    She interprets the situation differently from the Washington Post reporters… I thought you might find it interesting.

  12. Steve
    April 10, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    I’m 38 and have subscribed to the SJ Merc on and off over the years, mostly for the big Friday Fry’s ads (and I know I’m not the only one, according to a Merc forum thread I saw this morning).

    I reluctantly cancelled the print subscription when I realized that 99% of it was getting recycled unread and started getting daily Merc headlines by email (following up to read interesting articles online) along with “breaking news” alerts (not all of which qualify as “breaking news” IMO) from CNN and CBS.

    As for the Fry’s ads, they are now available online, albeit non-trivial to locate and not exactly user-friendly to browse. The upshot is that I tend to no longer view them each week as I did religiously with the print version in the paper… Maybe someone will realize the true value of these Fry’s ads and try to improve the online experience a bit… (?)

  13. E.B. West
    April 14, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    I was born way before 1976 (1945) and, of course, subscribe to a newspaper where ever I am (we live in a motor home). I have a wireless satellite set up in the motor home, so I’m not completely computer illiterate. I read a lot of news and weather on the net, but until they make it more comfortable for me to take the laptop in the john to read the comics, I’ll stick with the newspaper.

  14. February 17, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Very nice.

  1. April 9, 2007 at 6:44 pm
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