How I have used the print edition, historically speaking

My personal reasons for picking up an ink-on-paper newspaper, whether from off the lawn or the kitchen table or the newsstand or the stack in the newsroom. For reference purposes, I grew up in a household with a Miami Herald subscription, which explains the details of 4, 5, 7, 9 and 10 to some extent.

  1. Comics.
  2. TV Guide.
  3. School lunch menu. (Although I caught on pretty quick that Friday was always pizza day.)
  4. Crime blotter in the Neighbors section, broken down by neighborhood.
  5. Action Line.
  6. Baseball box scores.
  7. Dave Barry.
  8. Movie times.
  10. Jim Morin.
  11. Crosswords.
  12. The New York Times Sunday crossword.
  13. To read the ledes in the Spartan Daily between the parking garage and my desk.
  14. To cut out my clips, just in case.
  15. To double check cutlines when adding photos to stories online.

So, for those of you keeping score, the items on the list that are, shall we say, the newsiest, are definitely 4 and 13. In the case of 13, I was reading the paper both to get the news and to get an idea of who at the Daily could really report and/or write.

I use this, in an abbreviated version, as a way to talk with news folks about the difference between print and online.

When people talk about e-paper not replacing print anytime soon, and about the “feel” of newsprint and the physicality of the object, I think what they’re really talking about is turning the pages to get to their favorite feature, whether it’s the horoscope or Ann Landers or the Jumble.

Hey, are those all on the same page?

But online, I think you’re better off sticking with what makes online different: Breaking news, blogs, video, conversation, community, links, aggregation, audio, slideshows, galleries…

Please, don’t try to throw Ann Landers at me online and tell me readers demand it. They want Ann and Abby, they can pick up a print edition. Don’t waste your money and your Web staff’s time by signing sixteen partnerships for movie times and TV listings and comic strips. If I want that online, I know where to find it.

17 thoughts on “How I have used the print edition, historically speaking”

  1. All the South Florida folks are coming out of the woodwork at the mere mention of Tropic, it seems…

    @Danny: I wonder if Action Line was a Knight Ridder thing – There’s one in the Mercury News, and the writer is well-known enough that there was a j-school student I knew at San Jose State who aspired to write a column like his. (Myers, you still reading my blog?)

    For the record, the Herald’s Action Line got my grandmother’s fridge fixed sometime in the late ’80s.

    @Hartnett: Ah, I’m from the Andrew era. Which means I’m still comforted by the voice of Bryan Norcross, if you can believe that.


  2. Hey Ryan: You got me thinking. To me your list shows how small a list of things you need in a paper for it to be worth the cover price. It makes me wonder whether newspapers should think about getting much much smaller and spending the money they save on doing less but focusing more on the sorts of things people are actually using them for. A flick through the news and pre-work access to the smartest and funniest columnists. Just a thought.



  3. I don’t know anyone who reads a local paper for international news coverage (or even national news).

    Editors need to be more honest with themselves about what people actual use newspapers for. I think they’d like to believe that people value their local newspaper so much that they would get national and international news out of it, but I don’t think that’s remotely true.


  4. Having led a rather unsettled life for the past few years, I tend to pick up the local paper whenever I roll into town, including my hometown. It’s usually my lunch reading, and I mostly stick to the news pages. It’s still a good snapshot, though a static one, of what’s going on and what local journalists think is important.


  5. We are having some friends and family over this evening to dye easter eggs. My wife made me go to the newsroom and pick up a stack of old papers to cover the table. But normally I only have the printed edition around when I want to save a clip.

    A professor recently showed me the online reader for the Mercury News where you can actually read the paper online just like the “real” thing. He thought maybe this is the future. I think that is a good example of why newspapers are loosing money. You need to deliver the content in a new way for a new medium, not just stick the old thing online and think people are going to love it.


  6. @Kyle:

    Publishers sometimes put PDFs of their pages online as a low-tech way to upsell advertisers who want to see their ads online.

    Often, the same publishers are running a sub-par CMS and don’t get a steady flow of news posted to their sites, so out-of-town readers do actually use the PDF edition.

    Kind of a vicious cycle there…


  7. I always have, and still do, read the paper like a book, from beginning to end, only jumping immediately if a story really grabs me. Otherwise, I pick up when i get to the jump page.

    This is the experience I can’t get online and the reason i prefer a paper edition.

    Also, the crossword


  8. Many, many, many years ago, when my mother was teaching me to read, she’d take a copy of the newspaper with us to church (or anywhere else she wanted me to sit and shut up). She would circle a word or letter combination (“the” or “est,” for example), and I’d go through the stories and circle the matches. Sometimes there was an underlined group and a circled group. It worked like a charm — I was quiet and learned to read at a young age.


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