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Thursday
Nov252004

Future of Newspapers & Magazines

Will newspapers die off with the current batch of newspaper readers? That seems to be the suggestion Newspapers Should Really Worry at Wired News. Polling of younger news consumers revealed that while they're well-read and informed, they don't look to single monolithic sources, like a newspapers or a magazine for news and information as the previous generation did. Further, they don't even rely on the paper editions of the newspapers they do read bits and pieces from.

Young people just aren't interested in reading newspapers and print magazines. In fact, according to Washington City Paper, The Washington Post organized a series of six focus groups in September to determine why the paper was having so much trouble attracting younger readers. You see, daily circulation, which had been holding firm at 770,000 subscribers for the last few years, fell more than 6 percent to about 720,100 by June 2004, with the paper losing 4,000 paying subscribers every month.

Imagine what higher-ups at the Post must have thought when focus-group participants declared they wouldn't accept a Washington Post subscription even if it were free. The main reason (and I'm not making this up): They didn't like the idea of old newspapers piling up in their houses.

I thought the comment about newspapers stacking up was enlightening, because I see it every week at our house — and we only get the Sunday paper!

I don't fall into the age range of 18-34, but I do feel I agree with the general sentiment of the age group who were polled. I now rely on NetNewsWire to grab all sorts of web-based RSS sources I've discovered over the past year, especially now that it has a web browser built in. Occasionally I'll visit a few websites in Safari directly, but I find myself moving to NetNewsWire more and more.

In addition to using my Mac for reading, I convert several favorite news and weblogs via iSiloX each day, which are installed to my Tungsten E for late evening reading. This allows me to read my favorite news and commentary sources away from my home office. Whether that's the living room, bedroom or the cafe, I like having this portable source of news because after spending the day on my Powerbook, it's nice to step away and yet keep up on the latest at the same time.

As for newspapers — We do happen to receive Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Sunday edition, mainly for the coupons. I'll occasionally read bits and pieces, or scan the main and Metro sections, but by no means do I read the Sunday paper from cover to cover. Interestingly enough, I sync the mobile edition of the Journal-Sentinel to my Tungsten E, which features top local stories.

The only exception for me is Wired Magazine. While I can wait for articles to be released slowly online for free, I actually enjoy the paper edition of Wired. I nearly let my subscription lapse earlier in the year, but now I'm very glad I hadn't, because I do enjoy the articles and the physical magazine for reading away from the Mac or my Palm.

There are certainly advantages to reading electronic text, however having the physical book can be useful too. It's a bit like the paperless office concept — great in theory, but in reality, it's slow in coming, because people still need paper now and then. I believe paper forms of news and information do have a place, though I see it becoming more of a niche as the electronic generation grows up.

I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on reading of news and articles. Do you still enjoy the paper with your morning coffee? Are you a hard-core e-reader? Or, do you prefer a mix of both paper and electronic information like me?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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