Why Newspapers, Magazines, and Books are still Relevant

The rush to the “scoop” and the “wall-to-wall” “24/7″ coverage of events have driven all news cable channels, news website, blogs and Twitter into a place of prominence. When we “need to know”, we turn on the tv or go online for our daily 15 or 20 minutes of pre-sorted bite sized news snacks. When there is a major event, we glue ourselves to the our chosen news outlet, hanging on every word of the presenter as if instant knowledge of a tragedy somehow alters it.

No doubt there is a need for instant knowledge of current events as they happen. But the rush to “scoop” has abandoned perhaps something far more important, perspective.

Publisher of Newspapers, Magazines, and Books learned long ago that because of their publication medium, they were unlikely to ever “scoop” TV, Radio, and the Internet when it came to delivering news on current events. So to retain value in a market driving for faster reporting, they shifted into providing higher quality in depth journalism. Here the slower production cycle worked in their favor. As more time passes more information is inevitably learned about an event. This gave these writers the ability provide “perspective” on an event long after TV, radio, and online writers have moved on to the next big story.

As more Newspapers, Magazines, and Book publishers have moved their content online, I fear they have fallen into the trap of trying to compete for the “scoop” rather than retaining their value as providers of prospective. This can be seen most often in online newspapers, who’s more seasoned journalist can remember a time when they and not their TV colleagues ruled the “scoop” and perhaps yearn to return to their former glory.

While there is no doubt that “print is dead”, but what has died is the physical medium, not the need for the cultivation, localization, and specialization of information that these printed sources provided.

Just as many traditional print publishers have lost perspective in the rush to scoop online, they have also lost value in presentation. Rather than focusing on the quality of the journalism they try to create something “new and interactive”. Far to often “new and interactive” comes across as cheep and gimmicky.

Most damning of all is the obsession these print publishers have with Digital Rights Management when they go online. In the past when an article of print media was sold, the transaction was done. Most often the buy would read it then discard it. In some cases, buyers would give it with someone else, or catalog it whole or in part for later viewing, but by and large print media was consumed and tossed. If someone wanted to go back and find a story written in the past, libraries often retained archives of local papers, and of course the publisher also had an archive. Now it seems print publishers are so obsessed with getting money out of the small minority of people who received a copy via someone else discard that they are creating systems so complicated that the paying users are made to feel like thieves.

When trucks hauled proceeded trees to distribute news, it made sense to have both paid advertising and reader subscriptions. Now in the digital world were distribution costs are approaching zero, having both paid advertising and reader subscriptions is just greedy. When print publishers complain about copyright violations or how “Google linking to their content is somehow robing them of money, it’s clear that they don’t understand the new world, and perhaps never will.

For now perhaps is easiest and best thing print publishers can do is to provide their printed content in a simple digital form. Something as simple as pictures of each page combined and distributed through a single store, much like iBooks for Books or iTunes for music and movies. Over time that simple collection of pictures can evolve into someone more interactive, and have features like emailing out copies of articles, but for now just getting the content out in a recognizable form should be priority. Once more people are used to the ideal of reading high quality content on laptops, desktops, and handhelds, then they can try “new and interactive”.

As I sit with my iPad and a cup of coffee reading the latest blog post and news websites, I’m reminded how much I miss my Magazines and Newspapers. It does have an app called Zinio (http://www.zinio.com) and I have to admit I’m impressed. It does exactly what I want. It has verbatim reproductions of some periodicals that I read. Not every publisher is part of Zinio distribution system and at present Zinio is only for magazines, but it’s a step in the right direction.

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