Friday Question of the Day

Cody Yellow Lab with the Washington Post, originally uploaded by mbell1975.

I once asked folks where they read about local news. Well, this is kinda related. I canceled my subscription to the print edition of the Washington Post this week. Now I, like many other folks in DC, am a bit of a news junkie. I’ve been getting a print newspaper (first the New York Times then the Post when I decided DC was my home) for years. I thought they’d have to pull the print edition of the paper out of my cold dead hands. But I realized recently I was simply throwing out the newspaper without even reading it. Of course, I still read it online and as a result I found the print edition to be old news. So I finally understand that the print newspaper industry is in some serious trouble if someone like me cancels the paper (though obviously this development is not a new one). It just never sunk in with me. So the FQoTD is a simple one. Does anyone still read the print edition of the newspaper? How many years do you think the printed newspaper has left?

They’ll still have to pry the New Yorker from my cold dead hands…

On a related note I’m hearing all this buzz about the Kindle 2.0 version (where you can read books in a digital format). Does anyone think print books will go the way of the print newspaper?

49 Comment

  • I don’t understand how anyone could abandon the print edition. When you wake up and have breakfast and get ready for work, do you fire up your laptop and read the news there? I can’t imagine ever doing that.

    A morning without stumbling out to get the paper, scanning the front page and then reading the entire Sports page before I do anything else seems so foreign and awful I can hardly stand it.

    If/When the Post print edition dies a part of me dies too. It’s sad that people are quitting the paper.

  • Although I don’t receive a daily printed paper, I do take advantage of the free Washington Area dailies, such as the CityPaper, Express, and even the Examiner. I much prefer reading those editions in paper, rather than on their websites.

    I also subscribe to several smaller-ish news and other magazines: the Atlantic, Foreign Policy, GQ, and Scoot.

    I guess I sort of feel that I don’t need to pay for a comprehensive news source to arrive on my doorstep every day because if a story is big, I’ll have already heard about it by the time the paper arrives. I’d rather use my money to pay for news sources that give either more in-depth articles to inform me of different perspectives on current events, or shed light on stories not covered by the large dailies.

    To fully disclose, however, I devour my parents’ three newspaper subscriptions every time I visit their house. For me, it seems, it’s really just a matter of how I choose to allocate money.

  • The Sunday Paper will hold on for a while with its comics and coopins, but I don’t think the daily print is long for this world.

    Re: books — not until an e-book reader is cheap enough to destroy at the beach.

  • @Markus – that is precisely what I do. I hate the print paper. It’s wasteful, it’s bulky, it’s dirty and awkward. (And those latter three are why I don’t read mass market paperback books either. Trade paper or hardcover only.) I still get some magazines, but not nearly as many as I used to.

    And, the Kindle is AWESOME. I never thought I’d say that, but I borrowed a friend’s (he brought it camping – it’s not as fragile as you may think) and fell in love. I was sure I’d be one of those, “I’ll never convert to eBooks,” people but I see it happening soon. I love the look of all of my full book shelves, but the convenience of the Kindle is on the verge of winning out over the aesthetic pleasure I get from books.

  • Thanks Marcus, I totally agree with you. I was afraid I’d be the only one to admit I do the same thing. The old morning coffee and print edition of the Post routine to wake me up and get me off to work. Yes, I read the news online throughout the day but I loves me that delivered Post to my door. Plus I recycle the bags it comes in to clean out the kitty litter box. I did stop getting the NY Times delivered too as a cost-cutting move.

  • I gave up on printed papers years ago and never looked back. Most of it ended up in the recycling anyway without me even having read it. So in addition to having to haul it to the sidewalk, I had to deal with the guilt of destroying trees for no good reason. I dumped the Post when their so-called “Metro” section became 8 pages of advertisements for real estate in Front Royal, car ads, and a postage-stamp size article about how fewer people were getting murdered downtown. Occasionally I’ll be trapped in a doctor’s office and I’ll thumb through the paper only to be reminded of why I don’t subscribe anymore. If I want news, I scan the neighborhood blogs or the online news feeds on my phone. It’s just too easy to do a keyword search on Google news. Sometimes, I’ll pick up a foreign paper like Manchester Guardian or Asahi Shimbun and again be reminded of how sloppy some American journalists are and how biased their coverage can be. As for me, I only use the newspaper to light my bbq chimney. I wouldn’t wrap fish in the stuff. Good riddance to corporate-owned consensus “reality.”

  • I will never, ever give up the print edition. I donate the bags to the folks who have dogs and recycle the paper, so I’m not so worried about the waste of getting the daily paper (there is plenty of other waste out there).

    There’s just something about the print version of the paper that is so much easier to deal with. If I want to find out what sports are on TV tonight, I can find that much faster in my print edition than online. The layout and photos that go with many stories is more appealing in print than online and well, ultimately it’s just a tradition worth keeping.

  • Markus, that’s what I’m doing right now! Mmm, peanut butter toast…

  • Sunday NYTimes is where it’s at

  • I can’t believe that nobody had noted how impractical it is to read a laptop on the toilet.

    One of our favorite Sunday traditions is splitting the news and coupons up. At least continue your Sunday description.

  • I like that in the print editions the ads don’t get up and crawl across my field of vision. I am definitely underwhelmed by online papers. They have so much potential, but just don’t live up to it. I do however read online editions of papers for other cities.

  • saf

    Coffee and the Post, every morning. Can’t get going without it. Can’t imagine giving up that paper edition of the paper.

  • Once papers became free online, I stopped reading the print edition. As far as I can tell, print has no one to blame but themselves – why pay when they are giving their product away for free? Economist and Wall Street Journal require subscriptions to read online and they seem to be doing fine these days.

    Since all this online publishing happened while I was in college, I never personally subscribed to print – I just read my folks’ papers. That said, I prefer the layout of the print edition way more than the online version. Why don’t they make the online version the same as print?! Also, I live in an apartment without a lobby now, so any paper I subscribe to would sit in the alleyway outside and it’s unlikely I would ever see the paper make it up to my apartment.

    I recently subscribed to GQ and the Atlantic (lots of good magazine deals right now – two years of GQ for 24 bucks). After staring at a computer screen all week at work I need to give my eyes a break on the weekend. It has reminded me how much I enjoy the print stuff. If I am out to lunch, I will likely buy a paper to read, but more often than not I am reading it on the internet.

    EMG: I have never found laptop use on the toilet prohibitive in any way – aside from sitting there too long and having my legs fall asleep, though I assume I would do the same if I had a real paper in there too.

  • Old habbits die hard for us all and the time has come for the transition. Which is why you see print newspapers failing. In my opinion we all know in our hearts that the convenience of having the paper in front of us does not justify the vast waste of printing, delivering and then discarding so many daily papers with alternative technological options now available to us.

    So bring on improved e-book readers. Online news. Hope engineers and scientists find even more ways to improve our reading experience in the coming years. When I imagine how high the stack of newspapers and junk mail I in past years have thrown away in a single year and how many trees and gallons of gas to deliver them and then transport them to the landfill I get woozy.

    I too love the convenience and tactile experience. But only when I’m able to block out the consequences from my mind can the experience remain joyfull. I’ve been reading online for about a year now, buying a paper every one or two weeks. I’m almost converted.

  • Show me an online edition of the newspaper I can take into the bathroom, and I’ll happily end my WaPo subscription. But seriously, the value of newspaper is in its ubiquity — there’s always a copy within immediate reach, whereas laptops and whatnot are relatively scarce (especially if you’re low-income).

  • We better hope the print versions hang around long enough for papers to figure out a way to may money from an online version because free access to papers is not completely supported by advertising on the web page. And during a bad economy advertising is down for print editions as well as online editions.

    It may be that everyone will have to get over the “I’m not going to pay” for the web version because if a paper can’t make the money to pay its reporters and keep the web page going that one isn’t going to stay around longer either. I don’t real the WaPo online because I get the print, but if the print went away I would pay for access online. After all if you wanted the print version you had to pay for it so why should the online version be any different.

  • I don’t subscribe to a print paper, in fact I never have. And yes, I do read my news online in the morning with a cup of coffee while I check my email. The only time I’ll buy a paper is when I’m on vacation, don’t have my computer with me, and want to read what’s happening. Like PoP, I’m a devote New Yorker fan and that’s what I read on the metro. They have an online edition that’s supposed to be free for subscribers but I can’t seem to get it to work to decide if that’s better.

    The reason papers are failing though, isn’t because of the decline in readership. No paper makes money off of subscribers. Papers make money from advertising, print advertising specifically. And when advertisers have started to realize that it’s not worth the money to advertise in the print version of newpapers, either because no one reads them or because the money they pay is too much for the business they get because of them, then newspapers fail. That’s what we’re seeing now. And that’s why print editions of newspapers are failing, not because no one is reading them but because the advertising isn’t coming in.

    And yes, the Kindle is very cool, but it is also still very expensive. I imagine once the technology becomes more affordable it will become more widespread. I don’t think newspapers will disappear forever, but I think the advertising and subscription models will change. I bet if you want your Washington Post delivered, you’re probably going to be paying a hell of a lot more than you are now.

  • I’m with Markus, Sasha, Noah and SAF–I love reading from front to back a newspaper and the WaPo, despite its faults is still one of the best left around.

  • My main sources of news are the Post, NPR, and PoP. I would be so sad without the print edition of the Washington Post. I read it every morning on my bus ride to and from work, starting with the Style section to lighten up my day. The WP has a great online site, but I love having the paper in my purse to read while I commute, or wait at the doctor’s office, or wait for a friend.

  • Love the paper. We are so blessed to have a cheap home delivery. The daily NY Times is $1 plus charges for home delivery in the 5 boroughs.

  • P.S. How would you start a fire without a newspaper?

  • we just get the Sunday edition, owning up to our inability to keep up with the everyday print version.

  • I decided not to get a newspaper subscription when i moved out on my own because my office has one, so I can read the news (and my guilty pleasure of the style section) when i eat lunch at work. I love the feel of a newspaper and i don’t foresee giving it up completely for online news. I do tend to read the nytimes online rather then pay for it.

  • I think there’s an element of tradition to have a paper delivered. As a kid, the Rocky Mountain News in Denver structured my family’s mornings (I am so sad that the News recently closed its doors)… But honestly, I haven’t read a paper in print for a long time. I get all my news online. I think the next 10 years are going to transform the newspaper industry, and I hope it is graceful. Institutions like the Washington Post house too much talent to resist transitioning it in a modern direction. There are certian types of news that are just useless in print these days.

  • Thanks for starting my day with the cutest durn photo ever! I still get the Sunday print Post because I’m a dedicated coupon-clipper. Plus, there’s just something about a Sunday morning, coffee, and reading the paper…..

  • I sort of weep for the changes that are going on in the newspaper industry. As someone that has recieved their local paper for 20 years, I couldn’t imagine not reading the paper every morning – either on the Metro or while biking on a life cycle or just sitting eating breakfast with my wife and kid.

    i can understand the thought that cancelling the paper because it isn’t in vogue but I have found reading the physical paper to much more enlightening than the web. I say that in how many times I flip through pages and stop at an article that I would never click on when I surf the web. Further, I have foud that most people only read articles on the web that confirm their viewpoints particularly political rather than expand their views.

    I get two papers every day and wish I had time to read more.

  • I get the Sunday Post and I love reading it while I eat my breakfast and have a lazy cup of coffee. I used to get the daily print edition, but couldn’t keep up with all the reading, and like others have said, was recycling an unread paper.

  • PoP, you just broke this former newspaper reporter’s heart. 🙁

    I still read the Post’s front page every day, and look forward to the Style section every night and the food section on Wednesdays.

  • One common misconception is that the print papers will disappear while the online product remains. In reality, the print papers cost very little to produce, it’s the reporting that costs the most. With online news, you need even more reporting because everything moves so fast, you need more content. The big papers if they die will not stay online and simply remove their print coverage, you’ll lose the online editions as well.

  • I like reading it online (cheaper, more compact, etc.) during the week but there is still something about the Sunday Times and a bagel that makes the print edition worthwhile.

    I agree with Jimmy D that I would gladly pay for the online edition of a paper and don’t understand why it’s free…

  • I LOVE my Kindle! Just got it last week, and I now get the NY Times, the Post and the Shanghai Daily on it. The subscriptions are cheaper than the print editions and there’s no bulk. It’s really awesome!

  • I call BS on the nonsubscribers actually reading the online edition. Because when i don’t get the print edition, I don’t really read the paper. I click past the news to celebritology, and the online chat section about sports, gossip, and car reviews. But, if I have the paper edition, I read the actual news. That means I read editorials, including some I disagree with, I read actual business articles, I read actual reported stories written by reporters. Of course, I read sports first.

    But, when I log on, who can resist checking your email first, or looking at DCist or Citypaper, or some other secondary source who’s already summarized the news. I don’t actually read articles.

    Besides, the print edition is so cheap, and the paper is in fact recycled. Get the print edition; smudged fingers make you look smarter.

  • DCDireWolf – printing newspapers IS expensive. While I agree you’re going to see online editions disappear along with print (Rocky Mountain News, for example) – it’s not true that printing the paper is inexpensive. It’s a HUGE expense, probably the biggest for a paper beyond reporter’s salaries, see this blog post:

    It is estimated the New York Times spends nearly $650 million a year to print their print edition. That’s not cheap, that’s at least a $650 investment per subscriber and you know people aren’t paying that much to get the NY Times.

    More here:

  • i’ve always had a newspaper subscription since i left undergrad more years ago than i remember. i’ve been a WaPo subscriber for 10 years. but the changes in the WaPo have started me considering whether to continue. the paper is half of what it was 10 years ago, there’s at best two pages of international news, and the Metro section has devolved to 2-3 substantive stories, followed by 5 pages of obits. the thought of not having newsprint in my hands every morning is incredibly sad, but unless i can actually be informed by my newspaper, its utility is gone.

  • Regarding the Kindle, I am no math genius, but as I glance over to the stacks and stacks of books I have sitting in my living room, assuming each hardcover cost $20ish (on average) and the paperbacks are 12ish (on average) and Kindle books are under $10 (on average) – I think that over time, there would actually be a savings. A quick look at my past orders on Amazon indicates that I’ve bought over 50 books in the last 12 months (Amazon Prime + One Click are so dangerous that way) – if I were buying Kindle books, I’d be spending about $500 per year, as opposed to somewhere between $800 – $1000. It seems like it’d pay for itself in the first year.

    On newspapers, when I read the Post online (for example), I immediately first click the “print edition” and read through the articles there, before going back to the main site for newsertainment. Between a daily read through of the Post, Google News updates, and my RSS feed, and then a glance around for editorial content at the NYT, WSJ and some others, I feel like I know what’s going on. (Not to mention my addiction to local television news) I feel like the print edition is out of date before I ever look at it, so what’s the point? I had a former boss who used to come into work and have articles from the Post circled for me to read. I’d always say, “I already read those… and the Times and the WSJ, Hotline and Roll Call… ” She was always hours behind because she spent her morning with just one paper.

  • I’ve had an allergy to the ink used in printing newspapers all my life, so I abandoned the print version a long time ago. If they would only start printing newspapers with an ink that I wasn’t allergic to and didn’t result in black fingerprint smudges all over everything, I’d gladly start reading that version again.

    Plus, with aggregators like Google Reader, it’s much easier these days to get an extremely fast glance at exactly the news you’re interested in than by reading newspapers.

  • When libraries start getting Kindle books and can loan them out, then I’ll probably get a Kindle. At this point, I read a book or two a week, nearly all borrowed from the library. If you buy everything you read, and buy it in hardcover, then a Kindle’s probably a good value over time. But I definitely prefer the library (no risk of wasting money if the book is bad!).

  • If it costs so much to print newspapers, then maybe they should charge more than 50 cents a paper, or whatever it is. You don’t need an MBA from Wharton to figure that one out.

    They should be charging $10 a paper. Anyone who thinks they are “green” and still buys a print newspaper should have a big “H” for hypocrisy stamped on their forehead. So incredibly wasteful. I have an 11″ Vaio with wifi, and yes, I take it into the bathroom.

  • Three Words — NPR Morning Edition. I hate reading the newspaper because I have no attention span. I also read the City Paper sometimes. And I get some of the really local news from blogs. And DCist, of course.

    BTW — Can I kidnap your dog? Just for one day? Or maybe a few hours? I LOVE her!

  • I subscribed to NYT in various places for that past 16 years, but the service to my current DC address was so atrocious I gave it up. It amazed me how indifferent they were to the situation or unwilling to address problems with their delivery contract (especially the blatantly ignored stops while travelling).

    Now I mostly read online on my wifi network and periodically buy a Sunday Times from a local neighborhood coffee spot. The free daily examiner includes an NYT crossword (2 week lag). I’d never pay for WP, and even though I read it for local news, I found better outlets elsewhere (local NPR especially).

  • I love and will not let go of my print edition. All that’s said above, the pooper, metro rides, actually paying for what you’re getting. Here’s a few more:

    If I am reading the print edition, I will stop and read articles that I’d otherwise skip past online. I wouldn’t know squat about Zimbabwean inflation, Iranian energy subsidization, etc. without the paper edition.

    Tactile comfort. I love holding the paper. I love being able to quickly and cleanly snap the paper to change pages when reading only one half the paper, i.e. on metro.

    Crossword puzzles. Call me a junkie. I love the crossword. Sometimes I hold on to it to the next day to figure out those clues I couldn’t get. Just not feasible online.

  • Sigh, Jen- it’s already not at all graceful, the journalism industry changes. And unlike the housing industry, we may not bounce back. Nobody wants to pay for news anymore, and consequently it becomes harder and harder to pay people to report it.
    This reporter’s just hoping she doesn’t have to go into PR one day, when all the j-jobs dry up. 🙁

  • ShermanCirlcle–

    Soon enough you will be able to read all about “Zimbabwean inflation” right on the front page, with the national news headlines.

  • I get WaPo delivered daily and while I considered cancelling my subscription when I moved into my current apartment (now requires going up and down 3 flights of stairs to get the paper from the front stoop), I decided to think of my subscription more along the lines of a donation supporting a non-profit. I also enjoy reading the paper on my Metro commute, although I suspect that when something like the Kindle comes down in price I would be willing to switch. I agree with others that when I read the online edition, I end up missing articles that I would have read in the print version (and maybe vice versa — I often look online for the “most emailed” articles to see what others found most interesting that day).

    It’s not exactly true that newspapers don’t make money off of their subscribers. They may not make money off of the subscriptions themselves, but the decision that businesses make to advertise in the printed Post has to do with how many people the Post can claim to reach — their print circulation numbers, of which subscribers are (I would assume) the biggest group.

    A friend of mine whose newspaper closed in December just visited me and she is applying to business schools for the exact reason that she loves newspapers and print media, yet the business model they have relied upon for so long is failing them.

  • @ mphs: Just because you don’t read the news when you read the news online rather than in print, doesn’t mean that no one else does. As someone whose career is studying government and politics, I can honestly say that most of what I read online is actual news articles. Also, while the print edition may be cheap for you, as a graduate student living in DC who makes around $15,000 a year, spending money on the print edition just doesn’t make sense when I can read the news online for free.

    In regard to online editions disappearing with print editions, that may turn out to be the case in the future, but already two newspapers have ended their print editions and gone completely online: Christian Science Monitor and Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

  • I still subscribe mainly because I like the crosswords and the comics. Sad, but I read the front page stuff online and mostly only read Style at home. Can I just subscribe to the Style section?

  • I still have a 7 day/week subscription to the printed Post. It has the advantage of portability (since I do most of my newspaper reading while eating breakfast or lunch or riding on the Metro). Also, given the poor navigation of, it’s much easier and faster to locate interesting and/or important material that is not front-page news in the print edition than on the website.

    Having written that, I am skeptical that I will be getting the print edition at home in 5 years. I used to buy the NY Times periodically. No need to do that anymore, in light of the free website (much better organized than the Post’s) and the NYT iPhone reader.

  • I’m a long time subscriber to the Post and I don’t see giving up my subscription any time soon. Reading news on the computer is more difficult for me, and although I’ll turn to CNN or Reuters for breaking news, I still prefer the printed Post & occasional Sunday NY Times. It’s portable, easy to come back to a story and like others have said I’ll read articles I may not read on line. I also don’t see doing the crossword puzzle or sudoku on the bus with a kindle….

    I would like to be able to opt out of sections I never read (sports) that go right into the recycling.

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