I first read about the Boston Marathon bombings online as they were happening. There were live updates by the minute about the death and injury toll, the suspect in hiding, the material the bomb was made of and the first responders’ actions. I got the information that I sought quickly, and it was concise and correct.
The next day, however, I read a slightly confusing and ambiguous article printed in the Raleigh News and Observer. The death toll and the injury toll were different from what I read online, and the information about the bombers was vague.
The difference in information is due to logistics, of course, and I understand that. People must write, format, print and distribute the newspaper, and in the time that it takes to do that the information has already changed completely. The death toll has increased, the number injured has doubled, and the bombers have been identified. The paper tells me information that is a day old.
I love the newspaper as much as anyone else–good newspapers, that is. I like The New York Times, I like reading long, in-depth articles about an NFL player who turned his life around and about a young boy living with anxiety. But features like those make up only a very small proportion of the newspaper, which is typically filled up with sports news and current events, which ironically aren’t current.
2005 was the last year that printed papers made a profit, according to a graph of Print and Online Advertising Revenue Changes. Since then profit from newspapers has been on a downward slope, at its lowest point in 2009. Even now, the printed newspapers don’t break even. In 2010 “circulation at The New York Times dropped 5.2 percent on Sunday, to 1.4 million copies, and 8.5 percent on weekdays, to 950,000” according to an article about newspaper circulation. Great newspapers realize the downward spiral that printer papers following and offer the articles online as well. The New York Times, for example, offers a section on its website titled “Today’s Paper”, placing all of their articles from each printed newspaper online. There is no distributing or printing cost for online newspapers, and thus they make a profit much more easily. In October 2012, Newsweek announced that it would go completely digital, cancelling its print publications. Ending the printed paper would help Newsweek overcome its $40 million in annual losses.
The only future that I can envision of the newspaper is one that consists only of features and in-depth articles. People can read about sports, world-wide events, and editorials online, as they already do. When they sit down with a cup of coffee on Saturday morning, looking for a longer, more interesting read, they will pull out the paper and read the features. The paper, in essence, will become a magazine, like The Time Magazine or The New York Times Magazine.
The real question, though, is whether people even read these in-depth articles and long features. Do teenagers and people on the go even sit down and read magazines? Is anyone even reading this article? The inevitable ending of the newspaper is due partly to a lack of funds, but also to a lack of interest. People are not only not reading the newspaper, but they aren’t reading much of anything at all.