Apr 29, 2008

10 Reasons I Still Read Newspapers Offline

I was having a conversation today (on Twitter. NB: People are starting to have actual conversations on Twitter these days) with Dave Title and Girl Riot about why I still like reading the print edition of newspapers, going so far as to have daily subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

It dovetailed nicely with a conversation I’d been having with Cam Beck over on MP Daily Fix about our joint fear that as newspapers continue to go out of business, the level, depth and diversity of news reporting will suffer, which is troubling because a democratic society depends on a free press.

But back to the more granular issue of reading the newspaper in its original form. Which may be a particular tic of mine and I don’t think it’s for everyone, but here are 10 Reasons I Still Read Newspapers Offline:

  1. There’s still something special about going out and getting the paper off the driveway in the morning. It’s like the day doesn’t officially start until someone brings the paper into the house.
  2. Online headlines are always the same size. But there’s something about a giant 72 point banner headline splashed across the front page that tells you that something of grave importance happened that day.
  3. The entire family can share the same newspaper over the breakfast table, trading sections with each other and passing the paper back and forth to share articles. Yes, you can email each other things and pass the laptop around, but it loses something in the translation.
  4. If you spill coffee on the Times, you’re out $1.50. Spill coffee on the MacBook and you’re out $1,500.
  5. There’s a serendipity to reading the newspaper. I often stumble upon articles I’d never have read based on the headline, but there was something (a picture, a phrase, a byline) that caught my eye and got me to read it.
  6. I can read the newspaper in places I can’t read my laptop. (The beach, a crowded train, an airplane, the thousands of places that don’t have free WiFi.)
  7. My Blackberry is great for checking basketball scores, but reading an entire newspaper article on the tiny screen is an exercise in frustration
  8. Pictures look much better in newsprint. They’re not as clear, but there’s something about the size of a big picture in the newspaper that gives it import.
  9. I like big full-page print ads. Well-done ones, anyway.
  10. When I read the newspaper, I'm just reading the newspaper. When I read it online, I'm much more likely to multi-task, click over to other sites and wind up missing a number of articles I'd intended to read.
Now this is not to say I never read newspapers online. I actually do. A lot. I just prefer reading them offline. One suggestion I'd like to offer up though, something that would make my life a lot easier, would be if the print edition of papers included an easy, snurl-like url at the beginning or end of every article so that you could share it with your friends without having to re-find it online.

13 comments:

Matt Dickman said...

I kept a NYTimes Sunday edition subscription for years so that I would have newspaper to start my charcoal chimney on the grill. It was like they would deliver it just when I needed a refill. (I don't think that's what you're getting at though.)

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Something about the feel of newsprint in the hand, the crackle of actual pages turning, the challenge of folding NYT like origami to be able to read on a crowded subway. I like the option of hard copy/screen copy, too, Toad. Great idea about snurl. Speaking of mixed media, just heard that the "morgue" over at NYT (the dept that amasses files on famous person so edit is ready with obit the moment he/she bites the dust) is now compiling video tributes as well.

o.s said...

You wouldn't believe what a newspaper junkie I am. My weekend luxury is in fact reading a "proper" paper with coffee from freshly ground beans and a comfy chair. it's special. That's actually one of the things I look forward to come sat, sun.

Aaron said...

Worked in newspapers for a long, long time; nothing beats the feeling of seeing your byline on something you can hold. The tactile factor is definitely important too. That crisp 'snap' you can get from expertly turning the pages of a broadsheet . . . exhilirating.

Steve Woodruff said...

The fact is, reading a newspaper (or a magazine or a book) is simply a different experience than looking at a computer. It has its own pleasures and advantages, even if the information contained is the same. I still enjoy grabbing and going through a WSJ far more then reading on-line news...

Cam Beck said...

These are all great reasons to love reading actual newspapers. As I explained before, I love the feeling you get when you go into a pressroom... There's great energy there from people committed to industry and craftsmanship -- not to mention the responsibility they feel to get it done right.

It's inspiring to witness.

Were newspapers to go away, would that sense of responsibility go, also? Would that commitment to industry and craftsmanship?

When the press bell rings, a rush goes through the room, and a lot of people are singularly focused on a common, noble goal.

That energy produces a sort of accountability, as well. The editors to the production crew. The foreman to the pressmen. The pressmen to the delivery drivers. And all of them to the readers -- to We the People.

Without that, articles that may have great intrinsic value if done right can be published in secret by a single person without that sense of responsibility and urgency to motivate him.

I don't mean to defend publishing newspapers because of some cobwebbed romanticism, for there are great efficiencies to be gained -- for everyone -- by having a strong online publishing process.

However, before we go off half-cocked to cry for the execution of newspapers, we should take into account the good and noble things we'd lose and ponder what we can do to keep them.

David Reich "my 2 cents" said...

I love this post, Toad. Cam pointed me to it.

I'm a newspaper junkie and I love reading the paper on newsprint. I do look at out-of-town papers online, but, like you, my day seems incomplete if I haven't gone through the local papers.

You give great reasons to read the print editions, and I especially find #4 to be true. It's easy to miss or bypass things online, and you also miss out on the editors' call on relative importance opf stories, which newsprint shows by headline size and placement on the page.

Great post.

toad's sixth reader said...

i don't see too many young uns toting the NY times. maybe we'll be the last generation that values newsprint. sob!

Tom Messner said...

Nice piece.
The combination of print and on-line
is a big improvement. I can throw out newspapers every day and reference them easily without going to the microfilm file at the Public Library.
If I was still in school, I could ghost five term papers a day instead of one a week and leave rich.

dearjanesample said...

Fear not Toad's sixth reader ... I'm of the younger generation and I like reading the real newspaper. I hate the online version, it is just not the same. For me it is the layout of the newspaper and seeing how the articles relate to each other.

Nothing better then spreading a newspaper on the floor, grabbing your cup of coffee and reading like a 5 year old with your feet kicking up in the air.

Hot Diggity said...

Eliminating daily printed newspapers is one step on the path to living responsibly. How much forrest would we save and how much cleaner do you think our air would be if we eliminated NYT Sunday Edition alone? Landfills too.

Toad said...

Great comments all.

Particularly like @adbroad's thoughts on the origami-like folding of larger newspapers (Times, Journal, USA Today) - after finally mastering that skill, I'm not about to give it up ;)

Ditto Jane on seeing how the articles all relate to each other - there's an art to that- and how the articles relate to the ads as well-- that you just don't get online.

And thanks to Cam for his perspective on actually being in a newsroom and how that work.

Jonathan Trenn said...

What I love - and its an extension of your first reason - is that when a newspaper is delivered to you, it is a personal service. Sort of live room service to your home. Your particular edition is your...you own it. The newspaper - a big media company - made it especially for you.