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Life after death: newspapers and the re-invention of paper technology

June 21, 2009

SORRY to be the kind of parisite we have been decrying as the death of newsgathering, but Cyberjournalist carries this excellent article on the future of newsprint and paper-based reading.
I suppose it ultimately offers the kind of hugely insightful points that any fule no already, that we read paper and net sources differently – with a deeper analytical understanding coming from the former.
This has massive ramifications for lots of areas of net evangelism – not least online learning portals hailed as the future of higher education. Er, perhaps not yet.
But the points about what print can offer over the net is something we all should be taking note of. Bespoke print products like McSweeney’s, although harking back to a bygone age of press, offer a vision of where our newspapers can go in the future. As we diversify into a more (multi-)community model coming with smaller circulation, perhaps we need to look at how print can serve these smaller publics.
We diversify into community education programmes (oops is that the spectre of Newspapers in Education?) and put on classes and become closer and more aligned with our communities – do we print these groups’ newsletters and publications? Well, we can’t do that if we haven’t got presses we have outsourced to centralised units.
The Word magazine remains a glorious example of what smaller circulation, smaller staff models can do hand-in-hand with a vibrant online community and accompanying podcasts/ digital content. Its regeneration of MixMag is testimony to how a knowledge of the readership and good management can make a success of smaller circulations.
So, how do we produce local listings magazines, activist newsletters and bespoke print products which will ultimately have greater impact than throwing everything online and hope that people find it?
That’s easy – because we always did – it’s just we were chasing a new mistress who seemed much more comely, exciting and more rewarding than our previously staid existance. Like many another (late) mid-life crisis tryst, this new vision has not delivered all we thought she would. (Sorry for the sexist analogy folks).
Can print and accompanying digital content help us find new publics?
Undoubtedly, but at a local or regional level newsletters not newspapers may serve these communities better. Will at-threat newspaper groups in Britain reach these groups? Of course WE will.
But, in the language of recovery – we haven’t hit rock bottom yet and have not been forced to accept that online revenues are not the way forward and a step backwards may just be the way forward.
Giving content away for free can’t be right nor has there been any kind of profitable innovation suggested by those in the digiterati who say newspapers need to innovate to accumulate.
This step backward will be to look at rationalising the huge wastage of newsprint and produce more targeted products – hey, maybe even geographically specific editions again – and this in tandem with digital content is the future.
Unfortunately we need to replace the generation of skilled and knowledgeable journalists who may have left the profession who could have produced this content in tandem with these new communities.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 13, 2009 8:04 am

    Here is a kind of life after death you can be sure of…

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