Recently, two major newspapers circulated their final print publications: The Rocky Mountain News in Denver and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Similar fates may await the San Francisco Chronicle and the Boston Globe, and several newspaper groups have already filed bankruptcy. These actions have re-sparked conversations about the future of print media in the face of growing digital outlets. How will you choose to get your news? Are you still getting a newspaper simply out of habit? What are the digital-age options, and what will work best for you?
After their hay day in the 1940s, newspapers have experienced gradual decline in circulation and advertising revenue. First, the decline was blamed on television’s increasing popularity and now easy access to web sites, podcasts and social media feeds further threaten the medium.
Newspapers Go Digital
Most newspapers have recognized the need to create an online presence. In fact, even though the Seattle Post-Intelligencer halted its print edition, its web site lives on. If you haven’t already, find the online version of your favorite local, national or international publication and explore new ways to “read all about it.”
Newspapers have struggled with finding the right revenue model for providing online access to content. Some make it available free and rely solely on revenue from online advertisers. Others newspapers may require registration or even charge a fee for access to some content. And, others still make it easy, and free, to see today’s headlines but charge for downloading content from the archives.
Many newspaper web sites offer RSS feeds that will deliver the news right into a digital feed reader like Google Reader or NewsGator. You’re also likely to find several options for having newsletters delivered to your email inbox that cover daily events, breaking news or your own custom-selected topics.
If you’re in the market for a second-hand bike or you’re launching a job search, most newspapers’ sites provide online tools that are easier to browse and search than the print version. Plus, your fingers will stay clean!
Facing New Competition
Of course, if you’re in the market for used goods you may be more likely to visit popular and growing sites like eBay or Craigslist. And, if a new job is in your future, CareerBuilder and Monster probably come to mind. In fact, many newspapers have partnered with sites like CareerBuilder to provide their searchable, online job postings.
Newspapers aren’t the only “traditional” media to go digital. Most local and national television stations also deliver news via their web sites. The biggies like CNN, MSNBC and Fox News maintain their reputation for breaking big news first online as well as off. You can sign up for their “breaking news” email alerts to be one of the first to know.
Somebody has to break the news, and in today’s digital world, it’s not necessarily a reporter. Real people involved in real situations can post their experiences directly to web sites or social networking feeds like Twitter or Facebook. If you have a narrow field of interest, you may find that you get better “reporting” from people who share your interests.
News on the Go
Accessing your newspaper digitally may sound great, but you certainly can’t take your PC to the local coffee shop. Today there are lots of easier, and lighter-weight, options for taking the news with you.
If you have a smart phone like the iPhone or BlackBerry, you can easily view mobile-ready versions of popular news sites. Or, scan the headlines in your email newsletters then click when you want to read more. Your phone’s browser should take you right where you want to go.
For a slightly more traditional experience, you can use an electronic device like Amazon’s Kindle 2 and subscribe to newspapers electronically. You won’t waste paper, and you’ll still have today’s edition at your fingertips.
Beyond the News
For some, the appeal of newspapers goes beyond reading about yesterday’s events. You may like the tactile experience of flipping through a pile of newsprint or scratching your way through the daily crossword. No digital media will replace that.
For others, however, hanging on to a newspaper subscription is about getting advertisements and coupons you might otherwise miss. Advertisers don’t want to miss you either. In anticipation of declining newspaper readership, they have found new ways to digitally share ads and coupons. Target, WalMart, JCPenney’s and other retailers provide electronic replicas of their weekly circulars on their web sites. In fact, Target has occasionally skipped newspaper distribution completely to drive more traffic to its site. Find the ads on your favorite retailers’ sites, or check out Sunday Saver for quick links.
If you’re a coupon clipper, consider becoming a coupon printer. You can search for exactly the coupons you want instead of being lured into buying products you otherwise wouldn’t if you hadn’t found a coupon in the Sunday paper. Start with your favorite store’s or brand’s site for great deals. You’ll also find great sites designed to help you find and organize coupons such as Coupons.com, CouponMom, Coupon Cabin and others.
The choice is yours, but living without a subscription to the printed newspaper is definitely possible, and maybe even preferable.