The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, January 03, 2005

Why do folks buy the dead-tree Post...

...when they can read it all for free on their PCs?

Newsprint, objectively, is nasty stuff. You'd never see books printed on it [1], icky to handle (even with modern inks), photos come out like shit, completely un-interactive, loads of material on topics you could care less about, nowhere near enough on what you want to read up on.

On the other hand, it's cheap and easy for the producers and distributors to handle.

What a great tribute to American consumerism!

Yet - I go to the Washington Post Company's 10-K (PDF) for 2003 - filed on March 10 2004 - to discover (p34a) that circulation during the year declined by a mere 2% for the daily version, 1.8% for the Sunday.

Operating income from the newspaper division was up no less than 23%.

Yet, as anyone sufficiently wised-up as to read the Post would know, all the material is available free at the flick of a mouse. No newsprint to handle, no piles to recycle either. No muss, no fuss.

Shouldn't these savvy citizens be deserting the paid product in droves?

Obviously, the online version is not a substitute for the dead-tree. It's no good for straphanging, no good for lavatorial use or scanning over eggs and waffles at the breakfast table. The habits into which newspaper readers got during pre-net days.

No doubt, the Post and its peers has data on the monetary value the average reader places on an artefact that provides news in those environments.

Another factor that the brave new media seeking to replace the newspaper (my piece yesterday) need to work into their business plans.

  1. Perhaps in something like the Paris Commune, you would. Where they were eating dogs, cats and rats.


On November 19, I mentioned Leonard Downie's plan to dumb down (my interpretation) the Post with shorter stories and more graphics.

Has this taken effect? Has anyone noticed?

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