Printed media are inflexible, expensive and in-viral, and that’s why its utility will last. That’s what I told nearly 100 mostly older, more established attendees of the annual American Association of Independent News Distributors conference inside the Times Square Crowne Plaza May 1. Looking on it now, having not been given my context, my words were likely a little surprising and surely unusual.
Revenue models for local journalism are still quickly being siphoned off from prospective journalism creators of the future.
We’ve had no shortage of hand-wringing around the future of news in recent years. As I see it, simple access to news and information won’t be the problem of the future, since publishing keeps getting easier which adds to the number of sources (though creating the infrastructure to have a broad set of common facts locally might be. Still that’s another issue for another post).
Instead, I am far more concerned about the future of local journalism. (I am not talking about international war reporting or national politics, as those audiences can be relatively so large that I trust in niche players, like Propublica and the New York Times finding a foothold). Instead, I’m talking about state houses, city halls, niche communities and neighborhoods.
The loss (or failure to recreate) journalism in those places is my greatest fear for the future of asking tough questions and what professionally keeps me awake at night more than almost anything else.
Print is going to last longer than we might think because we can prove print in a way we cannot prove with digital.
Someone recently mentioned to me that in 10 years, we’ll still be predicting the death of newspapers. I think sitting here, in my office, looking at a copy of the Wall Street Journal that I stuffed into my pocket after finding it on a bench at the 2nd Street station in Old City Philadelphia, I believe that to be true.
Let me say something controversial: newspapers mean something more than news sites. Just like printed photographs mean something more than Facebook pictures.
Digital media still should amaze in their flexibility, utility and reach. But their printed counterparts are also still remarkable for all the reasons their future seem limited: they are inflexible, expensive and in-viral.
Everyone in this country, I figure, ought to be watching the again flourishing NFL rivalry between the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants in today’s NFC divisional playoff contest.
So who would be scrolling the Internet? Still, this game made me think about how newspapers are losing ground for which they need to fight harder – local sports.
The New Jersey Herald, now active six days a week, has published continuously since 1829. It is like many small, rural newspapers. With small communities, investigation is sometimes rare. Might Publisher Bruce Tomlinson and Editor Chris Frear avoid criticizing potential advertising streams when their coverage area is less than 150,000 people and their circulation is less than 15,000? Of course, but they’ve made a series of changes in recent years – like dropping their old God awful masthead seen above – and I’ve seen more of late.