No, I am not referring to the Amazon reading device.
Actually, I was reflecting on an experience I had this past weekend while getting a fire started in our living room fireplace. The first thing I reached for was the short stack of newspapers held back from the recycle police to assist in the ignition phase of my un-eco practice of enjoying a wood fire. It was then that I experienced a bit of panic realizing that in the future I may have to rely on fatwood kindling purchased from LL Bean instead of The Washington Post. The is a simple by-product of a relatively inexpensive bonding experience with one of my trusted news sources. The former, well, it’s definitely going to cost me.
Not only will they no longer provide me with kindling, but I won’t have any fish wrappers either. (In my 30 years in the operations side of the media business, the expression when we ran late in production was always that we were printing “fish wrappers”).
Seriously, though, this expected trend of newspapers forgoing ink on paper does present another unfortunate consequence. What is becoming more common is issuing newspapers fewer days per week – some publications have decided to print four days out of seven, for example. This presents an interesting evolution: originally newspapers had transitioned from printing one or two days a week to printing seven days per week. The New York Post finally started Sunday publication in 1996. Nowadays, if they don’t fold, perhaps we will see papers in print only on Sundays.
In looking for the bright spot, it occurred to me that, as I have said here before, newspapers will never go away entirely. We may need to come up with a new name, though, because I still have a problem with talking about an “online newspaper.” As there’s no paper involved, it’s a bit of an oxymoron.
The real point to my little lament isn’t kindling or fish wrappers. Rather it lies in the difference between publishing and printing. Printing is merely a delivery channel that is preferred by an ever-decreasing number of consumers. This move away from print is decidedly generational. However, consumers still need the format of the print publication, even online. This is evidenced by the growing success of “online readers” and services such as Zinio, PressDirect, the aforementioned Kindle and those based on Microsoft’s Vista technology and used by The New York Times, Hearst and others. These devices allow consumers to view the publications in the traditional print format, but offer the ability to manipulate the views and navigation to accommodate personal preference. I do believe this signals the media’s is alignment with the consumer’s need for reliable news and information, and demonstrates their shift to an agnostic position on delivery channel and even format.
So, I guess I will place my LL Bean order and settle in with my Kindle to read The New York Post by a roaring fire.