Thursday, February 28, 2008

All the news that's fit to read online

I don't know about the rest of you, but I haven't purchased a newspaper from one of those little boxes in years. I read the paper online, and at that, I read 4 or 5 a day. I like to look at the local paper, The Washington Post, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Telegraph and The Baltimore Sun. The Sun is a big part of the story in this year's season of the best show on TV: The Wire. Much of the newspaper story line revolves around the decline of newspaper readership and the things that the publishers, editors and writers do in an age of diminishing interest in their product.

During one scene this season, McNulty is checking to see if his case has made the front page of "the sun paper." Rather than drop coin in the little street corner box, he waits till someone else buys the paper and then grabs the door before it closes, thus picking up the paper for free. I remember thinking that no one really does that anymore, and that it was such a movie and TV cliche. But, I guess I'm wrong, because I saw it happen in downtown York today and that led me to think about the newspaper box as the harbinger of the death of the newspaper industry.

If you are still selling your product in exactly the same way in 2008 that you did in 1968, you're in trouble. Think about it, has the design of the paper box changed much in the last 40 years? No, it is still the same honor system approach, and while some have credit card swipe capabilities (like the one pictured on the right) that is mainly in big markets. That means that in 98% of the cities in this country, if you want to by the paper on a street corner, you have to have change in your pocket.

Sure, some people still include a trip to the paper box with a few quarters in hand as part of their daily routine. Those people, however, are old and not passing their habits on to their kids. In the very act of reading this blog, you are among the problem (as perceived by newspaper purists) since you are one of the "new media" people we hear so much about. I think the problem stems less from people's decreasing desire to read the paper and more from peoples increasing desire to read the paper at their desk and not lug around a pocket full of coins.


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