In Goodbye, New York Times, Jimmy Guterman writes that he is no longer going to read The Times in hardcopy. I can appreciate that. Its expensive (relative to the online version), wasteful (pace recycling), and gets your fingers dirty.
But instead of looking forward to why The Times hasn’t joined up with Amazon to deliver the news on Kindle, or with Apple to produce an offline iPhone/iTouch news reader, this O’Reilly writer, ostensibly a leader in new media, shows himself to be stuck in the last century’s thinking about the newspaper business.
First of all, Guterman writes:
For all the pleasure of holding and print, the Times on paper is just too late. In 2008, today’s paper is yesterday’s news.
The reason people read the New York Times is not for the late breaking news, but rather for its news analysis, which has expanded in recent years. Years ago, The Times realized that it had stiff competition from the web and cable news, especially on the west coast, when deadlines are 3 hours later. New analysis, however, is reflective, and competes on insight rather than timeliness. By Guterman’s logic, print weekly and monthly news magazines would also be worthless.
Guterman also writes:
In this era of advertising-is-the-only-business-model, management at the Times Company has decided that I’ve decided that the value of what it sends to me is zero.
Actually, The Times Company has decided that the value of what it sends him is quite high, but the paywall revenue was growing much slower than the advertising supported revenue.
“The business model for advertising revenue, versus subscriber revenue, is so much more attractive,” he said. “The hybrid model has some potential, but in the long run, the advertising side will dominate.”
I’m not saying everyone has to read The Times in print. I certainly scan the Times’ RSS feed for headlines once during the day. But if you’re going to dump the print version, its should be because of cost, wastefulness, and cleanliness. A hardcopy paper won’t easily be able to keep up with the web, but the print version (or a physical facsimile thereof, like the Kindle or iPhone), read in repose, is more conducive to thoughtful reflection and analysis than sitting at ones desk flipping through links.