Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting

DISPLAY CONSULTING

 

The Newspaper Wars…

Not so many years ago, Seattle was a city with two major newspapers.  The Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (the Seattle PI) were both vibrant and appreciated by a wide readership in this greater Puget Sound region.  But as has happened elsewhere, subtle changes began to gradually intrude on this happy state of affairs.  One significant change was the dramatic drop in classified advertising revenue as people discovered the new and much broader marketplace known as Ebay.  Another major impact was the drop in employment ads. 

This lost revenue had the most immediate effect on the slightly weaker of the two newspapers.  That was the Seattle PI.  They tried various approaches to stay viable.  They contracted their printing and delivery to the Seattle Times.  Then they merged their Sunday edition with the Times so that there would only be one package of advertising inserts.  But all these efforts were to no avail.  A survival decision had to be made.  And the decision that the Seattle PI made was to become an on-line only newspaper that would be supported entirely by advertising revenue.

Today that “newspaper” – in name only since there is obviously no real paper involved – is still known as the Seattle PI and can be accessed by anyone who wishes to do so by going to “seattlepi.com”.  The Seattle Times has continued to survive as the traditional print paper delivered each morning to my doorstep for my reading enjoyment.  Will this remaining “real” newspaper survive for years to come or will it also succumb to the competition from electronic media?   With each passing month it seems the daily issues get thinner and thinner.  There are fewer pages and there are ever fewer investigative and editorial features.  The news articles look more and more like the ones that appear on-line at various sites.   Extrapolating this rate of losing pages – kind of like losing hair – I would estimate that there is less than a decade left before the Seattle Times will have to follow the Seattle PI into print oblivion.  I find this rather depressing. 

Given this state of affairs, I have been doing an experiment for the last few months comparing my reading enjoyment of the printed Seattle Times with the on-line Seattle PI.  And so far I can see only one advantage to an on-line “newspaper”; quick response and immediate posting of news stories.  In other ways, I am finding the old-fashioned print-on-paper version more efficient, more effortless, and considerably more enjoyable to read.  But isn’t that so 20th century, you may ask?  I suppose it is, but here are my observations. 

The large pages of a printed paper allow me to quickly scan many items and I can focus on the ones of most interest to me.  By comparison, this process is considerably clumsier on a computer screen – even a relatively large one.  Looking at the on-line “newspaper’s” home page, I see plenty of headlines and lots of tool bars to click on but nothing else.  If a headline seems interesting, I then need to click on it to access the article.   Now comes the really bad part.  Not only do I have to wait for the article to come up but I am confronted with an advertising message.  Oh sure, it says that I can click on a box to bypass it, but that process has a purposely built in delay of at least 5 to10 seconds.  Then when I do get to the article, I may find that it’s not at all what I had in mind.  Now I have to go back to the home page and start this process all over again. 

The Seattle Times has a page and a half of comic strips.  I find that often those contain interesting life’s lessons – sometimes more than the news articles or the editorial pages.  I can scan through all of them in a few minutes and focus on the ones that, on that day, seem the most insightful.  The on-line Seattle PI has a roughly equal number of comic strips available.  But to actually get to see the strips I have to select them one-by-one from a list, click on the selected strip, and again wait for the page to open.  In the meantime, I may or may not be presented with another advertising “interlude”.  It would take me at least a half-hour to do on-line what I can do in less than ten minutes of looking at the print version.  Not only that, I can be reading the printed paper while having my breakfast cereal with no worries about spilling milk or coffee on the keyboard or having to continually interrupt my eating to use the mouse to access the next page or the next article. 

The Seattle PI seems to be having good success in selling on-line advertising.  This is a good and bad result.  The good is that they seem to be surviving.  The bad is that the ads are getting ever more pushy.  The latest approach is to stick an ad right into the middle of the screen when I access an article that I would like to read.  Truly an “in your face” approach.  Do they really expect to create a positive response with such methods?         

The conclusion from my experiment is that I still prefer the printed daily newspaper for most of my reading.  I may look at the on-line version once or twice during the day if I’m curious about a particular news event.   Print is good.   On-line is also good but in a more limited way.   Can both survive?  I have my doubts – especially when I see the slow but steady shrinkage of what is showing up on my doorstep each morning.  That’s unfortunate, but may be the reality that cannot be recaptured in the 21st century.

Are you still holding on to printed media, or have you made the transition?  I would be interested to hear your thoughts on what we are likely to have in the third decade of this century.  You may reach me directly from this site, by e-mail at silzars@attglobal.net, or by telephone at 425-898-9117.    

  

 

 

19916 NE 30th Ct. Sammamish, WA 98074 Call 425.898.9117

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