What will you miss about newspapers?

Seth Godin asks the question, "When newspapers are gone, what will you miss?" And answers it: "deep investigative reporting." But that reporting is only two percent of the daily rag, and the other 98 percent is stuff the web does well:
What's left is local news, investigative journalism and intelligent coverage of national news. Perhaps 2% of the cost of a typical paper. I worry about the quality of a democracy when the the state government or the local government can do what it wants without intelligent coverage. I worry about the abuse of power when the only thing a corrupt official needs to worry about is the TV news. I worry about the quality of legislation when there isn't a passionate, unbiased reporter there to explain it to us.

But then I see the in depth stories about the gowns to be worn to the inauguration or the selection of the White House dog and I wonder if newspapers are the most efficient way to do this anyway....

Punchline: if we really care about the investigation and the analysis, we'll pay for it one way or another. Maybe it's a public good, a non profit function. Maybe a philanthropist puts up money for prizes. Maybe the Woodward and Bernstein of 2017 make so much money from breaking a story that it leads to a whole new generation of journalists.

The reality is that this sort of journalism is relatively cheap (compared to everything else the newspaper had to do in order to bring it to us.) Newspapers took two cents of journalism and wrapped in ninety-eight cents of overhead and distraction. The magic of the web, the reason you should care about this even if you don't care about the news, is that when the marginal cost of something is free and when the time to deliver it is zero, the economics become magical. It's like 6 divided by zero. Infinity.

When newspapers are gone, what will you miss?


  1. I think I’ll miss the jobs that are generated by publishing newspapers. Printing jobs, office jobs, delivery jobs…

  2. When we were kids we’d all scramble over the various sections of the evening paper (The Telegram – now defunct)and hunker down on the floor of the living room to read. A lot of my early reading experience was gathered with the paper – starting with the comics – all emulating our father and poring over the wall of words spread out before us. Dinner would be ready and we’d all troop to the table – comparing black ink stained elbows as trophies of how much we had captured from those pages. Maybe when they come up with a touchscreen carpet that sensation of physical immersion in the media will return. That’s what I would miss – the physical relationship with the paper – and the ink.


  3. But that 2% is the important bit. Only 2% (or a similarly trifling fraction) of a moon rocket makes it back to Earth, but that 2% is the point of the whole exercise, and none of it would happen at all if not for that 2%.

  4. Other than newspaper reporter salaries, investigative reporting typically doesn’t pay until the book deal is sold. And even then, it’s not lucrative until the film deal is sold, too.

    And even enterprise stories don’t usually just spawn up from nothing. Reporters cultivate sources, tread their beats and gain the confidence and trust of people – sometimes even, yes, by interviewing the person who makes inauguration robes or rescues puppies, grip-and-grin photo and all. That’s hard to get without reporting a beat.

    That’s not to say newspapers are required for beat reporting, but news organizations of some manner are. Maybe blogs will supply that through lower distribution overhead, who knows, but people need steady income, even stringer income, to make steady progress. Prize money and one-story windfalls won’t cut it, unless you want all your reporters to be trust fund babies. (Hey, I think I just wrote a country-western song.)

    I am going to miss the typography and design of the great papers. I already kinda do, thanks mostly to Gannett’s attempts to precursor the BLINK tag with ink.

    Maybe that’s like having a fetish for the aesthetics of a buggy whip, but still – in my life, every major event has had, somewhere, a work of art for a spread. Great photography printed poster-sized a hundred thousand times over, encapsulating an entire experience in ways an iPhone photo or Flash video can’t. The Times-Picayune’s Katrina stuff sticks in my mind as an example of that.

    Nothing the Web can provide has the same permanence with the same physical scale. The fact that so few will miss that part of the newspaper experience is probably a sign of society’s tightening attention spans, but still.

  5. What will i miss? ooh. let me see.. Astrology, Marmaduke and Fred Bassett, adverts for sheds, stairlifts and curtain pelmets..celebrities, Rupert murdoch’s political opinions masquerading as news, health scares, stories about princess diana, black marks on my fingertips…

  6. Will miss:
    Ink smell
    Sharing the big weekend paper with family during breakfast
    Cutting and sharing articles
    Special Reports – deeper investigations

    Won’t miss:
    Ink on fingers
    Ton of ads
    Sports section

  7. Interesting points, particularly regarding the cost of printing and distributing news, and the potential effects on reporting.

    However, as usual, these Western, web-based pundits are talking only about the West, and mainly about the US.

    What is the future of print journalism in other parts of the world? How is web journalism affected by non-democratic regimes that effectively censor the web?

    As I was told yesterday by a colleague who spent years working as a journalist in Africa, in large parts of the world, the current telecommunication revolution is radio, not internet. Nobody has access to the internet, but cellphone use is rocketing.

    Don’t get me wrong – I find the demise of print journalism fascinating, saddening and exciting. But I also recognise that its significance is limited.

  8. I’ll miss their alternate uses: rolling up pages to stuff inside damp shoes while they dry; spreading pages out to protect a table while the kids get busy with some painting; using it to clean windows (no smears!); making paper hats…

    Not all that bothered about it them as a source of news though.

  9. Can anyone double check that math on the 2/98 ratio? I was under the impression that investigative reporting was the expensive part of news, not the cheap part. After all, you have to hoard documents, file legal requests, comb for hours and hours of seemingly boring stuff in order to find one good insight. It’s a hugely inefficient (And thus, costly) process. Not to mention the threat of action taken against you if you print something as true against a powerful person. Compared to that, writing about the style of gowns and presidential puppies definitely seems to me to be the cheap way out.

  10. Three things:

    Newspapers never ask me for a password, or make me wait before I can get to the next page.

    My paper carrier slips thank-you cards and jokes into the paper every once in a while.

    Seeing my canary crap all over George Bush’s face.

  11. If I couldn’t get a paper at all I think I’d miss the comics the most. The Detroit Free Press is going to be a three-day-a-week print paper; the rest of the time it will be online only. I’m going to have to find a slate of some sort to read my “paper” from.

  12. I’ll mourn the death of the comics page. It’s a shame that a strip as good as Cul De Sac comes along at a time like this.

  13. Come to think of it, I think he needs to check the math on that “6 divided by zero is infinity” bit. 6 divided by an infinitesimal is infinity; 6 divided by zero is undefined. (Unless you’re that crackpot math teacher who claims to have discovered “nullity”.)

  14. 13Strong: You mean to say that you think that oppressive regimes have a harder time shutting down newspapers than blogs?

  15. If not for my home wifi network, PDA or netbook, I would have said ‘reading on the [throne]’.

    How about ‘clipping comics and taping them to the wall’?

    And, yes, crosswords.

    And doodling on faces of celebs and politicians!

  16. Don’t forget that some people’s livelyhoods are entirely dependent on knowing who wore what dress–it may not be ‘important’ news to everyone, but a single dress worn on a famous woman can make or break a designer. For an example of which you are all probably more aware, remember the Palin wigs and glasses, and for a more obscure example, Nina Ricci’s work was saved by a few well-placed red carpet dresses.

  17. Save the trees down with the state and corp controlled propaganda is all I can say. The more individual and decentralized news reporting is getting the better. There are other endeavours out there to try to actually get funding for independend journalists – the best shot I think has spot.us – very innovative concept that has actually a chance to caputure a bigger amount of the market – but then we are talking micro payment and that is not so successful regardless of where it is applied (not that I want to open up that debate again but I still do wish for an open nongovernmental non corporate way to manage micropayments – maybe now that journalists are out of jobs they start lobbying for something like that to happen too).

    What we will see is a rise in corporate journalists that make up nifty stories about how wonderful certain corps/products are – yes even more then the copy paste of press releases that is going on now – it will blend seemlessly into normal reporting and will be harder to distinguish (at least these days you could opt out reading any corporation related news in a big newspaper and were mostly left with opinions and actual reporting).

    By now it must be clear that I will miss them not at all – but then again I have not subscribed to a newspaper or bought one in about 5 years so I shouldn´t opine on it. ;)

    Good luck to the print journalists out there actually finding an endeavor – I would say get independent – do your own reporting set up your own blog make your own podcast – its not that hard and the reward is that you are truly independent and can build a user base for the future when there might be a solution to the money problem. Build “trust” networks with other independant journalists and push each others reputation and watch over each others stuff – calling out those who don´t adhere to nice journalistic principles – I would welcome nicely reported original stories on the web that are not tainted with political or corporate propaganda and drown in personal opinions – you know real journalism.

  18. Cory,

    I believe wait 13strong meant is that on another countries, literacy is a major problem for newspapers. Radio is listening, and even unliterate people can hear it. Haven’t you heard about the broadcast on Chile’s coup in 1972: “It rains over Santiago”, but the sun was shining. It meant the military was coming. Timeless piece of radio information!!!

  19. It’s a lot more serious than that. Even if the 2% number is accurate, you’re blithely ignoring the whole idea of local news. Every singly city, town and burg in the country has news that is important to the residents of that location — local papers cover that. Sure, the quality varies wildly, but they are there, writing about their town or region so the residents know what’s up. It’s a vast army of paid reporters gathering and circulation information. It’s easy to find out what Obama did today, but what happened two miles away? Who’s going to go to every city council meeting in every town in America, and stay to the end? TV won’t do it, radio won’t do it, and neither will the citizen journalist.

    Newspapers create paid reporting jobs in every community in America — how many local news websites are there that have writers who are paid living wages to write about news in their community? I’d venture close to zero. We’re looking at the collapse of news itself, and may be coming up on an age of even greater isolation and ignorance about our local communities — the Wal-Mart-ization of news. Will something spring up to take its place? Maybe, I hope so, but it’s certainly not clear what.

  20. I won’t miss anything about newspapers. As they die off, the internet will take over what they used to do, but without the old biases that newspapers had.

    the sooner they die, the better.

  21. I will miss the touch, feel and smell of paper and ink. The fact that I can read it wherever and whenever I want.

  22. When newspapers are gone, where is the news on the web going to come from?

    If newspapers die, wouldn’t most of their websites die as well?

    Wouldn’t services like Reuters and the Associated Press lose income – something that might force them to cut reporters (and therefore stories) from their business?

    Wouldn’t this lead to other news “sources” – the CNNs, FoxNews and ABCs of the world – to have fewer stories to break? Or at the very least, cover said stories on a delay, not “as they break”?

    I’m probably biased towards newspapers (Disclaimer: I have family members working in the newspaper industry) but I don’t think it’s going to be as easy as just having the web take over.

  23. #1: Same here, we would all share the paper at once. Try that with a web browser.

    My parents claim I learned to read the newspaper by the time I was three. Comics drew me in, one day I became interested in the other parts of the paper, the rest is history.

    What I will miss is what I would miss if there were no more books; sitting down with print on paper and a cup of joe, doing my own subjective sort of the contents, idly browsing. you an idly browse a web page, of course, but you can’t take the contents and spread them out around you. At least Macs can do that yet. :)

  24. i’ll miss having a cheap way to line my rabbit’s cage, i’m pretty sure he’ll miss it too, he likes the finance section you see, uses it to keep track of his stocks (that’s my theory anyway)

  25. Being able to read the daily news without needing:
    1. An Internet connection
    2. Batteries
    3. An electronic gadget prone to failing at the worst possible moment

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the people who grew up with computers (TRS-80, Apple ][, etc) and they are my profession. However, there is nothing more annoying than getting engrossed in a book on an electronic reader, getting to the really good part, then seeing the “low battery” light come on.

  26. I think that the local papers will hang on quite a bit longer than the big ones, simply because the big papers don’t cover local events now and their newsblog replacements won’t, either.

  27. “and the other 98 percent is stuff the web does well”

    The web does a real crappy job of letting me read the news without a computer and a net connection. It also does a real crappy job with local news.

    I would say that the web does 2 percent of the job and misses 98 percent.

  28. I think what we’ll miss the most in the end is the newspaper legal staff. You can discover wrongdoing at high levels of government and still be afraid to report it if you don’t have the legal guns to give you cover while the truth comes out.

  29. I’m a Gen-Y kid and have never subscribed to a paper, which isn’t to say that I can’t appreciate them, but I don’t have any fonder memory than taking my Silly-Putty, squashing it onto the funny pages and then warping the images around.

  30. When they’re gone? What’s the when supposed to mean? They’re gone already. No newspapers in this house for three years now. Nobody misses them.

  31. 1. The letters page (comment threads, aside from this one of course, don’t do it).
    2. As with the atomisation of tv, I’ll miss the ability to have a shared news experience.

  32. You missed one thing that is in papers (and TV news as well) that passes for “news”: Press Releases

    I am so tired of reading the paper or watching the news and seeing yet another “product news” story that is just a Press Release

    of couse blogs are doing that too, as soon as I get a Google Alert about something and it turns out to be a PR, sure enough it shows up in the Blogs I read.

    In my town we have an interesting situation where there are basically 3 LOCAL papers (in addition to the Chicago Tribune and Sun Times).
    The Pioneer Press version of local suburban “news” that is a weekly that sort of is OK, but the only reason we subscribe is to check the ads and see who is advertising. Their reporting is rather bland. It used to have a coupon for a local Restaurant we liked, that restaurant no longer advertises the coupon!
    Another local paper is very small and free and delivered weekly to each home, it also has an online version that mirrors the print version. It tends to have more opinion articles and investigative articles.
    Last- an All Online “paper” that seems to get more news “NOW” or at least in a more timely manner. When my wife has a “tip” about a story, she contacts them first because she knows they will do something with it.
    We stopped advertising in the Pioneer Press version this summer. (but that is due to Real Estate issues, many other Real Estate firms have stopped or cut back drastically on their Print ads and the Trib has dropped their “HOMES” section because of this.)

    We stopped subscribing to the Tribune years ago and will probably stop subscribing to the Pioneer Press paper later this year. I don’t think there is anything we will miss from the paper.

    I like magazines, but I really have never enjoyed reading “the paper”.

  33. packaging for shipping boxes. putting hot pots on top of the table with a stack of newspapers wedged between. the wonderful coupons. sudoku.
    personally i never really gave a hoot about newspapers- if it was important, i ended up hearing about it and all the irrelevant things in the newspaper never mattered. but what it does mean is that amateur bloggers would take over ewwwwww

  34. The best investigative reporting happens in magazines: Private Eye and Bad Idea are two such very different titles. Magazines like Science, Nature and New Scientist, also do an excellent job in the world of science. I’m a huge fan of Prospect for in-depth analysis, but magazines such as New Statesman, the Economist, and the Spectator all have a role.

    And there’s the Rolling Stone, New Yorker, the Atlantic….

    I’d miss the disappearance of these titles much more than I’d miss any newspaper.

  35. When you are ready a newspaper, you can hold it up like a wall around you that says “Do Not Disturb”.

    When you are staring at a computer, people think you’re just surfing the web and have no problem pestering you.

  36. Without that 2% to link to and let people comment on, the bloggers and columnists pretty much go out of business.

    And anyone who thinks the web is less biased than print journalism is in for a huuuuuge surprise.

    What people can and should miss about the death of newspapers isn’t the papers themselves, but the professional journalists they supported. The web can’t do that, and sure a lot of hacks will be blessedly out on the streets, but I think that 2% is a lot bigger than many realize.

  37. I will miss the layout. A great effort was made to makes papers read-able, so that your eyes moved easily across the pages. The same is true of magazines. The web has failed to recapture this feeling. The web is just as informative but much less sophisticated. Reading the news on a website feels like reading a stack of paper with too bright clip art everywhere.

  38. The serendipity. I read plenty of news online, but I know the way I read nytimes.com is very different from the way I sit down in front of the paper version when I get home. With the physical paper I’ll go through each page and read the at least the lead of every article. I don’t browse like that online; if a headline doesn’t grab me, my mouse is on to the next link.

  39. I’m 30 years old and I just started getting the paper delivered on the weekends about 2 months ago. I can’t believe the value I get out of it and I feel like I’ve been missing a great deal of relevant and interesting information for a long time. This applies especially to local news, things going on in the area that affect me and my friends and family. The interwebz are by far the best way to get national and international news and all sorts of funny, interesting things, but the highly relevant local news is lost when you don’t have a local paper. I hope regional sections of newspapers continue indefinitely.

  40. “Punchline: if we really care about the investigation and the analysis, we’ll pay for it one way or another. Maybe it’s a public good, a non profit function. Maybe a philanthropist puts up money for prizes. Maybe the Woodward and Bernstein of 2017 make so much money from breaking a story that it leads to a whole new generation of journalists”

    The myth that the free market will solve everything just never dies, does it?

    I’m certainly not saying there won’t be some things that are better without newspapers and with the blagosphere. It’ll be a mixed bag and we’ll have to take the bad with the good.

  41. I work in journalism (outside of the US). The demise of the newspaper is quite a nightmare for journalism. The web is considered a cheap medium and it didn’t take the publishers long to find out how to save a lot of money.
    Guess who gets fired first: a salesperson that brings in add-revenue or a journalist that costs money?
    First to go are the experienced ones, because a journalist fresh out of school is a lot cheaper (someone only capable of keeping a keyboard right side up is even cheaper). One of the first forms of reporting to go is investigative journalism.
    Make no mistake it is extremely expensive. Imagine wasting two or three experienced journalist and all the supporting equipment/staff on something that may or may not be story.
    Next in is syndication. Why send people overseas, when you can buy the news from there? That process repeats nationally and then locally.
    Next step is the bosses counting how many people you have and wondering why those people are there. Everyone can copy of a syndicated feed after all, can’t they (provided the keyboard is right side up).
    So now you have trained people working on editing the syndicated stories. In case you are wondering, the major news services have already discovered that it’s cheaper to hire an inexperienced reporter. Take a wild guess at the quality of the newsfeed.
    It doesn’t really matter because it only takes so much time before a bright light in the legal department remembers that combining two or three articles creatively is not plagiarism but ‘creating a new work’.
    The feed gets turned off, and you end up with an understaffed newsroom that fills its days copy/pasting stuff of the net and recombining it, all as quickly as possible.
    If you think that is bad, wait until someone in sales discovers that advertisers love it when journalists visit their major clients. You will be able to leave the office one or two times a month (dress nicely now), but you will not be in control of where you go, what you say. You can write what you want, the editor will take care of that.
    The publisher will be happy, because the publication has become profitable. To celebrate they might only fire another one or two staff members, because ‘times are hard’.
    Have you ever wondered why news blogs seem so alike? Wonder no more. The professional ones are copy/pasting each other blind. Most fresh news comes from press releases, amateur bloggers getting ripped off and people working unpaid overtime.
    Think local news will survive? It dies sooner than the national news (less advertisers=lower income=no money to be made).
    You could try to go on one of those ‘down with the corporation’ approaches and have an add free newspaper/website. Ever wonder why there are so few of those? It is no conspiracy. Even a well established publication can’t survive on subscribers alone, you might be able to break even, but only if you keep the overhead (way) down. So no expensive in-depth journalism, people on the scene and whatnot. Maybe one or two adds, carefully checked will keep you afloat (watch that slippery slope now…)
    The web will be the way the news is brought, and guess who is footing the bill?
    The drama is not over yet. Your legal department (remember the ones that made journalism without leaving the office possible) will be gone (you can’t afford them). So now you have to be extra careful anything you print. If a company threatens to sue you, you will have to roll over and play dead. Why? Because you can’t afford any legal proceedings lasting longer than half a day. You may be right, you may have it on tape, and everyone will love you for defending truth, honor and freedom of speech. But you will not be able to afford being right. Remember that news as a business has considerably less legal protection then an amateur blogging from the attic.
    Maybe something new and better will grow. Want to know where we are now? Look at the past. The start of the printing press had very little to do with truth and reminds me a lot of the ‘blogosphere’. On a positive note, history usually repeats itself, so maybe in about seventy, eighty years we might have a well funded and free press again.
    /end of rant

  42. I hardly know where to begin in addressing this bleak prospect. Perhaps by noting the iciness of some of the comments posted here. This is a hallmark of this mode of communication, as opposed to newspapers, which, except for a handful of celebrity op-ed columnists, tend to naturally filter out much of the Web’s style of hit-and-run glibness.

    Second, you don’t have to pay homage to the electric company every time you open the paper. Yes, power was used to produce it, and resources were extracted, but when you open to Section B, then C, D, then E–indeed, to every single page– you’re not initiating a brand new energy or resource expenditure each time.

    Third, papers leave us with artifacts, which can accumulate warmth and charm and significance with time. I’ve noticed that the older I get, the more those values matter to me and sustain me.

    Fourth, as a visit to anything that now passes for a “cafe” illustrates (the term is in quotes because its nature has been radically altered by the presence of cellphones and laptops), electronic gadgetry fosters a degree of self-absorption and an antisocial vibe that newspaper reading can’t even begin to approximate.

    And so on and so on and so on…

  43. The real question is: “Can that important 2% be paid for by web advertising?” I’m not wedded to a dead tree edition. But it is good to have an organization that is both big enough to employ reporters full time so that they can write in depth pieces or cover boring council meetings AND at least pays lip service to the idea of journalistic independence.

  44. Seth must live in some other world than I do. I’m a news junkie, and worked on a daily newspaper for a while. A year ago, after eight years of the mainstream media COMPLETELY missing everything that has been going on around them until it became unavoidable, and having switched my news gathering over to the web, I dumped my Chicago Trib subscription. I’m not a bit sorry, and not sorry for those treasonous sloths who so totally failed to communicate what’s been going on here. Fuck them all.

  45. I will miss:
    – the awkwardly worded local police blotter section
    – the crossword (sudoku die in a fire, plzkthx)
    – free day-old newspapers as packaging material

  46. Presumably the best of the material will continue in some other format, so…

    I’ll miss the durable hard-copy. Newspapers are the worlds best distributed backup system. They get shipped off to libraries that preserve the paper itself, and later images of the paper. When everything goes digital what will we have for an archive? Whatever it is, it certainly won’t be as robust.

    Ironically, I’ll also miss destructive uses of the newspaper. Readily available material for getting fires started, checking the oil in my car, keeping paint off the floor, wrapping presents with the comics, and cheap padding to keep fragile things from getting broken when shipped…

    I’ll miss being able to go to the local newspaper to buy the remainder of an end of a roll of newsprint, a single roll of which is both a great way to keep a rear wheel drive car from skidding in the snow (keep the roll in the trunk all winter), and enough paper to keep the messiest, most creative kid busy for an entire year.

    I’ll miss a big page of box-scores all in tiny numbers to maximize the data per square inch.

    I won’t miss people folding the sections around to read an article, and not folding it back the proper way. Curse those people!

  47. I miss the charming and quaint dog bites man local news. A lot of that stuff isn’t major enough to make local TV news, and I don’t watch TV. At the same time, too few communities have quality local online news sources. In fact, the only local news source I have on the Internet is the web site of the newspaper in the next town over.

    We need to setup a news site for every single town and city with more than just a few hundred people in it.

  48. The way the corporate monster has consumed, digested and shat out what used to be such a crucial part of our lives into the small steaming piles that they are now, is horrifying. My local paper is crap and I will not miss it at all. It has a cover of stories pulled off the AP wire (for what that is worth today) and inside you can find the local hockey mom news. Spare me. But mostly this rubbish is just a tortilla-thin wrapper for the large bundle of advertising circulars inside, forming an indigestible burrito.

    What I miss the most, and this is something that is largely already gone, is an informed public.

    On the small personal level, I’ll miss seeing the long racks of newspapers for sale in the supermarket. The smell of them, the soft feel of the newsprint. I would, back in the day, buy the NYT, but I always read the front pages of all the other papers.

    Going through the checkout at the supermarket, there were vertical racks that held magazines and tabloids. I miss the World Weekly News. I used to fantasize having the job of coming up with their headlines. I wondered if PhotoShop killed them, when it reached the point that ANYONE could make their own Batboy in their own basement.

    But there used to be a few real magazines at the check out area too: Newsweek, Time and Life, as well as magazines for the braindead house frau like “Women’s Day” and “Family Circle”. Sure there were tabloids then, but now the news magazines are no where to be seen.

    Instead, all we have are tabloids. This Jennifer Anniston? Who is she? I never watched friends, can’t abide Angelina Jolie because her BPD affect creeps me out and am so not interested in Brad Pitt. Yet I am exposed to more about the contrived soap opera than every bit of news coming out of the EU, and that is just wrong.

    I’m not sure of the exact day it all went to shit. The coverage of Princess Diana’s death was obscene. Practically the entire island nation of Montserrat goes kablooie when the Soufriere Hills volcano erupts, but the NYT sticks in on page 17, while page one is still all-Diana, all the time, has been for weeks, and will be for weeks.

    The other media are no better. I’m sure it had been happening before, but it was the constant coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial that made it clear that responsible journalism was a thing of the past. So much easier, so much cheaper, to just throw a crew at some tawdry celebrity drama. Can all your real reporters. Just hang on to a few with good hairdos to throw in front of a camera to regurgitate pablum.

    Now we have kids coming in to college, who can tell you everything there is to know about Lindsay Lohan, but they couldn’t find Gaza on a world map if you lit it up with neon.

    I guess I miss the content that newspapers used to have in ’em, not the paper they were printed on.

    Of course, I’ll probably feel differently next time I have a puppy to housebreak.

  49. I feel like I’m at a wake for a dear friend and a bunch of punks just walk in bellowing, “Oh, this guy? This guy? Fuck this guy! I piss on his fuckin’ grave, this guy!” Jesus fuckin’ christ, I’m in mourning here, have some fuckin’ respect.

    And not to sound like an pro-fascist establishment sheep or anything, but I’m going to miss the authority of the newspaper. Yeah, I said authority, ya punks! There is such a thing as the “record” and the newspaper is the place where it gets writ. No, I don’t believe everything I read in the paper, but I think I probably believe a greater percentage of what I read there then what I read here. And its not just city council meetings that won’t be covered, how about all the little legislative decisions that don’t make the front page, but can be found reliably right there on the third page. I know I appreciated reading about every single environmental regulation rollback that bushco stole right out from under us. It was all the more horrifying to read about because I didn’t suspect the paper was trying to push a certain pov down my throat as I’m accustomed to getting on any number of special interest websites I might visit. Just the facts, in their stark brutal truth. Yeah, I’m gonna miss that.

    Can we talk about the kids for a minute? The paper is an indispensible teaching tool. You like the comics? How about political cartoons? Paul Conrad, you were the MAN. As an 11 year old kid, I got sucked into politics because of you. Thank you.

    And now, how long does it take for a laptop to go obsolete? Are we going to commit to one child, one computer for every kid in the country, and then do whole thing all over again in three years when they don’t work anymore? Give me a break. That’s great if you get your news needs met online, but for many many people, including millions of school kids, this will likely mean no news. But maybe no news is good news. Somehow I seriously fuckin doubt it.

    Thanks for asking, Cory.

  50. Ah, the newspapers serve important legal functions, (ie Notices to Creditors, Calls for Tenders, Obituaries/estate notices, Notices of Hearings/Public Meetings, etc.) that are important to meet regulatory requirements (that is , publication is required by Law in a local “Newspaper of Record” in order for certain subsequent legal events to happen).
    I suggest that the Governments concerned establish “Official Gazette” websites, based on geographical locality, to serve this function.
    I mean , the Law often has “publicity” requirements, and there must be some way for those to be met.

  51. Godin’s got some valid points, but he’s dead wrong about in-depth journalism being 2% of the cost of a newspaper. I wrote a piece explaining why here: http://www.zenarchery.com/work/?p=60

    I love new media as much as anybody, but there are things that bloggers simply can’t do. You’re not likely to see bloggers uncover a 21st century version of Watergate, for example. It takes too much time, too many resources and too much money.

  52. Some people need coffee in the morning. I need my hardcopy newspapers. Even though I’ll read a number of news sources online throughout the day, and listen to NPR during my commute, if I can’t hold a hardcopy paper in the morning, the day starts out on a downer note. It’s going to take a long, long time to get over the addiction.

    It’s also going to take a lot of money. We’ve got two adults and two kids, all newspaper readers, all eating breakfast together. Sharing sections of the dead tree edition is easy. Sharing it online, with two laptops in the household? Not going to be fun at all. The other option–buy two more laptops, or a few Kindles–adds up to a lot more than we pay for subscriptions. A table of people reading paper newspapers has a very different feel than the same table of people reading screens.

    I’m going to miss saving the paper on banner headline days, and on my children’s birthdays. I’m going to miss being able to save the Sunday comics section to use as wrapping paper. I’m going to miss reading the paper out on the hammock on a lazy weekend (wireless and a laptop works, but it doesn’t really give the same experience).

    I’m waiting for cheap, large-format e-paper that will have my entire paper downloaded when I walk into the kitchen in the morning. That’ll help take away some of the sting.

  53. @ #13 CORY DOCTOROW:

    “You mean to say that you think that oppressive regimes have a harder time shutting down newspapers than blogs?”


    No, sorry, I didn’t mean to suggest that. I know well enough that it’s MUCH easier for a government to shut down or intimidate a print magazine or newspaper. And I’m also aware that there is a sizeable movement working to keep the internet unrestricted and out of the control of governments, which is a heroic cause.

    It’s hard to know what the online media landscape will look like, but I do have some concerns about the limits and risks to online journalism.

    First, while oppressive governments are currently pretty slow and cumbersome in their attempts to shut down dissenting websites, I suspect that, over time, they’ll become more efficient at it, with a wider range of tools for doing so. Second, I suspect the future of online journalism will be more densely populated than the world of print journalism, with less information available about individual media outlets (their sources, their backers, their agendas, etc). The density of news outlets online will mean that when a government intimidates or forces a blog or online news site to shut down or shut up, fewer people will notice, or fewer people will care. When a real life newspaper is forced to close down, people notice.

    Oh, and on a totally different subject, did BOINGBOING at one time share an office with Dave Eggers’ MIGHT Magazine? I was reading A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius last night, and came across a reference. If so, that’s cool.

  54. so the evolution of blogs resulted in limitations that print journalism had.
    it was slow, expensive, elitist and all sorts of things.

    anyways, blogs are fast and cheap and open to collaboration and great, but we’re hitting a wall in that there are limitations to the digital realm that we’ve not really started to realize until recently.

    anyways, i’ve started a wiki/blog http://thementat.wikispaces.com/ that is the homebase, for now, of an idea i have.

    i’m going to open a non for profit mixed media library/coffee shop/pay what you can youth hostel/art gallery in my schools town of Brantford Ontario.

    It will be a blog but in real life, where instead of amazon links to items you can purchase or use, there will be physical things you can pick up and purchase or borrow if you’re a member of the library – something achieved through purchasing of a library card or donations to the library of media or time or whatever.

    it’s going to be exciting.

  55. I won’t miss the fact that people thought this system was sustainable.

    News gathering, investigation and reporting will have to become a donation funded enterprise ala PBS and NPR. There is no other way to break the ownership of advertisers over the important work of telling the truth.

    Instead of mourning the dead tree editions (I will too, honestly), and even more bizarrely, mourning the corrupt money-hungry system that spoils modern news, how about we get busy setting up non-profit news sources that pay their reporters and editors good salaries to tell the truth, with no threats of advertisers pulling the plug on uncomfortable revelations.

  56. Honestly, you may not miss much anytime soon.

    In a recent study, between 2000 and 2007 the drop in circulation for daily newspapers has gone from 55,773,000 to 50,742,000. While this is a sizable drop, it doesn’t exactly show the newspaper industry going away in the near future.

    Just something to think about.

  57. One good thing about newspaper: You don’t have to hear the “correct” opinions of the countless idiots who use “teh internets”. When someone has a paper, they can yell and scream and whine all they want at the pages, but I don’t have to hear they’re BS.

    I’m also going to miss my job.

  58. “Is there any reason why big newspapers won’t simply move entirely on-line? What am I missing?”

    The ad revenue won’t support it. Advertisers will pay significantly more for print ads than they will online.

  59. relax, there’s a bunch of ink stained wretches building a rocket and EMP nuke.

    I’ll miss the Millwall Brick and the Japanese stab-resistant vest. Also the 50’s cold war Silenced Pistol Drape.

  60. I know this sounds funny, but I miss the ads. Specifically, in NYC, the theater ads. I was in a doctor’s office recently where there was a copy of the Sunday Times Arts & Leisure, and saw ads announcing a whole mess of shows I didn’t even know there were plans for. Sure, I could find out about them if I explicitly subscribed to playbill.com or something like that, but sometimes you really do want things pushed to you.

    For some reason, the web equivalent of a full-page ad in the times is obtrusive rather than a bold statement, which is in some ways a shame.

  61. “Deep investigative reporting” hasn’t been in newspapers for at least a decade.

    What I’ll miss is comics you can cut out and stick on the fridge with magnets (without firing up a printer).


  62. I’ll miss the sports page… I like reading the ridiculous ins and outs of local sports.

    I’ll miss the comics when I’m eating breakfast and the coffee hasn’t kicked in enough to read hard news.

    I’ll miss the crossword, I still don’t enjoy doing them electronically, the experience is cold and sterile compared to newsprint and pencil (I say this as a web designer who spends all day online).

    I’ll miss not worrying about spilling anything while I read. A daily paper is way cheaper and easier to replace than my laptop.

    Our local papers in Detroit are moving to 3 day a week home delivery in a month or so and I’m really down about it. They’re offering an online version and I can drive to a newsstand, but that kind of blows up my morning ritual of getting the paper, brewing some coffee, and have a calm breakfast before I dive into my online work world. I read a lot online, but it is a qualitatively different experience. I expect that eventually they’ll suspend home delivery entirely and I’ll be stuck without my paper.

    I’m also kind of sad that my soon to arrive kid will not grow up reading the paper with me every day like I did with my parents. I was looking forward to that. We used to discuss what we read at breakfast and dinner and I learned a lot about how things work from those discussions with my parents and brothers.

    Maybe someday some awesome rollable, durable, oled or e-ink paper will be a decent replacement, but I doubt I’ll see that anytime soon, and even then I’ll probably worry about damaging or losing it, and won’t be able to split it up to share with someone in the morning. I guess that as much as I love and live on the web I don’t like the loss of the experience of reading the paper. While I like reading eBooks on my iPhone, sometimes I just prefer a nice paperback at the beach or pool. Sometimes progress means losing something we love and I’m a little hesitant to call that progress.

  63. I will miss reading the news that I wouldn’t have chosen to read…the articles that wouldn’t appear in my custom feed.

    Who doesn’t want to learn things outside of what they already care about?

    A lot of people, that’s who. I for one wouldn’t have read 90% of my schoolwork if I weren’t forced to, but 90% of that 90% was very helpful.

    The A section of the average US newspaper serves as a current events baseline, for better or worse. Without it, we’ll breed a generation of news deniers – “If I don’t choose to read it it doesn’t exist.” They’ll get along fine with the net-naive who say that if they saw “proof” of something online it must be true. And the rest of us can – I dunno – start copying the news by hand and post it in a public place? That’s an idea!

  64. Content=Editor+Journalist

    Leaning back in my chair at the outside seating area of a favorite restaurant after finishing lunch reading a long, informative feature from text on eye-friendly paper

    No batteries required.

  65. oh come on, “deep investigative reporting” ? The newspapers fired and chilled investigative reporting in the fracking 80s-90s. Attempts were made to ruin people’s careers for doing REAL investigative reporting. The web does that just fine too. Take for example consortiumnews.com
    Started by some of the people run out of the papers for daring to report the truth about powerful yet “evil” forces in this country.

  66. First and foremost, Local News from a Local Perspective.

    Local Opinion.

    Local coupons and store sales.

    Portable media, easy to adjust for comfort in a variety of locations – Table, Couch, Bathroom, floor, picnic table.

    Disposable Media that isn’t harmed by Marinara Sauce, wine, coffee, or orange juice spills.

    Convenient material for ad-hoc place-mats.

    Convenient material to cover surfaces for gluing, painting, other work.

    Ad-hoc bug swatter (glossy inserts, not newsprint.)

    Fireplace kindling (not that I have a fireplace where I live right now.)

  67. Doing the crossword on the subway.

    In fact, just reading them on the subway. I suspect small free papers (The Metro, and similar) might survive for quite a while, which will fulfill that minor need of mine.

  68. #19:

    “I won’t miss anything about newspapers. As they die off, the internet will take over what they used to do, but without the old biases that newspapers had.

    the sooner they die, the better.”

    I will miss a lot about newspapers. I like the fact that when I sit down with a paper and a cup of tea it’s not going to beep at me with messages and my relaxation break actually does relax me.

    Additionally – to the people who apparently trust the dictator resistant content of blogs more than identical written words on paper (I don’t get this, cynical about everything but online content?) the difference is that blogs can be, and often are, edited every 5 minutes. That could be just to correct a spelling mistake or it could be something considerably more serious. Part of the checks and balances in a modern society is that anyone can go back to a newspaper printing and read the fixed, unchanging words and pictures printed there until the paper rots. If I go to a blog a few minutes, hours, days later the entry could have changed enough to make it subtly but crucially different, it’s not hard to do and that’s a huge weakness.

    To think that just because it’s online it’s better is utterly, utterly stupid.

  69. Uhh…the way they smell? Er, the way the ink rubs off onto your hands? No, no wait! The corny joke associated with them!

  70. I will miss having a big sheet of paper to open out and wrinkle in the air in flaps, snaps and flutters of color and black and smears of my fingers and comics with dots like I saw last night on the big screen in ‘Scorpio Rising.’

    That’s what I’ll miss about newspapers. And folding them in half and smacking the life out of a bug on my matte finish painted ceiling.

  71. actually using my opposable thumbs for holding the thing in my hands. not gazing at an lcd monitor. turning pages (you know, using those things which grow out of your shoulders…). being able to read one without checking my emails between columns. leaving it on the train for someone else. visiting my local newsagent. looking at all the front pages at once. not caring about everybody else’s f**king opinion (why do all newspapers online always have a comments thread? who cares?). not having it’s battery run out ever. not having to carry a laptop everywhere. not caring if i spill my coffee on it. recycling it. i like meatspace.

  72. There are Tudor-era writings in which the authors bemoan the switch from torches to candles because candlelight is so dead and cold compared to torchlight.

  73. those silly things you make by rolling them in a spiral, tearing longitudinally, telescoping out and beating your siblings with.

  74. Stories like the St. Pete Times The Girl in the Window. Most stories are not much more than a regurgitated press release and a standard set of “could not be reached for comment” lines. Deep reporting like that article isn’t impossible to do outside of print newspapers, but it sure catches a lot more attention when it is.

  75. The demise of newspapers puts at risk the entire concept of the “fourth estate,” the idea that we have trained professionals (who have dedicated their lives to the craft of reporting, and who are part of reputable organizations, and whose names are always attached to their stories to promote credibility) working full time to be the eyes and ears of the masses, and to hold government and others accountable.
    It takes a really long time to learn a beat, and as newspapers have round after round of layoffs we are loosing the institutional memories of hundreds of experts. That’s not easy to replace.
    Sure, good journalism can be and is done exclusively on the web – but after newspaper are gone, who is going to PAY for it? I admit, there’s a lot of fluff in newspapers, but people READ the fluff, and that means advertisers will pay to advertise, and that means the paper can (could) afford to pay skilled journalists to keep an eye on things for us and be plaes we can’t be.
    I think it’s one of those “don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone” situations. Unfortunately, there’s really a lot at stake.

  76. I can’t help but be reminded that in 1999 everyone was saying that “bricks and mortar” businesses were going out of style. I can’t think of the last time I ordered anything online.

  77. The 2% guesstimate is entirely misleading. The newsroom is the only department at a newspaper that doesn’t produce revenue, directly or indirectly. I could argue in that sense that it is 100% of the cost of producing a newspaper. And at most newspapers, probably 80% of the newsroom is devoted to ‘local’ news in some form.
    You’re also limiting ‘newspaper’ to the printed thing that lands on your driveway. In fact, counting paid circulation and online readership, more people are reading ‘newspapers’ today than ever before. The decline is in print advertising, which generates a great deal more profit than online advertising.
    Also, newspaper web sites remain No. 1 in almost every local market in the country. National newspaper web sites are in the top 10 of many countries.

  78. I don’t know if the Newspaper will really die, I don’t think it will. Rather, I hope that the current business model will die.

    I keep expecting that one year or other someone will (rather than shutting down the local paper choose to) experiment with some radical reformatting of content, format, support model, and/or distribution and prove to the astonishment of all of us with coffin nails in our hands that it’s actually the corporatization of the papers, death of investigative journalism, over-reliance on the anonymous, thought-police tainted Wires, failure to tap the community as a resource for sustainability (treating them as just consumers rather than interested parties), shrinkage of comix, and general lack of imagination that have killed THIS KIND of paper, but the whole newsprint-on-paper delivered daily model still holds a lot of value.

    I imagine collectives of journalists and editors kicking out the boards and then suddenly realizing, like the factory workers in Venezuela, that it was not a lack of income but the bosses exorbitant salaries keeping them from earning a living wage, communities coming together to form non-profit foundations to support local reporting, and even groups of blogs realizing that there’s a meatspace market that they could tap by combining content into a regular print edition.

    As gtbernstein @76 pointed out, the papers’ have seen a big drop in circulation, but the bottom certainly hasn’t fallen out. I think the form will survive because of many of the things mentioned in this thread, especially the importance of editors, local content, and paid, professional journalists. We desperately need the 4th Estate. It just needs to shed its skin and metamorphose from an an ugly caterpillar with scars from the brutal 80s to a beautiful 20teen butterfly. Fly, butterfly, fly.

  79. The majority don’t care about investigative journalism. (unfortunately) I think one of the reasons old school newspapers are going down is for the same reasons all the other old media is going down.

  80. I just wanted to apologize for my tirade earlier. I really mean no ill will against the sweet little bunnies and worms and birds that like to eat and poop on the paper. But I will say that my distasteful and unfortunate display of invective is exactly why we should rage (at least a little) and not let the paper go so gently. We need more level headed reporting and less emotional rants. The blogosphere could take a few lessons from the paper in that regard.

  81. Beyond the content, I’ll miss the tactile feel of newsprint in my hands and the smell of the ink.

  82. I will miss the screen resolution of a newspaper and the non-animated, silent advertising.

    On a more serious note I’d miss the filtering. Unlike the internet, newspapers have limited space and have to filter incoming news to select what to present to the readers. Because of that you are able to quickly skim every headline in your daily paper – something that doesn’t work well on the internet. (I tried reading our local paper online for a while – their epaper edition has the full text, but navigating through it takes way too long. Also, the newspaper content promises to be at least mildly interesting or relevant. Stuff read online is often very interesting, but not so high on the relevance scale.

    On the internet it’s so easy to ignore dull news or things that you don’t care about. On a newspaper page, there’s no need to click on headlines to read articles and I would at least start to read stuff that I’d would not click to read on a different page. The knowledge gained from those skimmed articles is what I’d miss the most.

  83. I am very worried about print journalism dying. The best journalism is intensive work that, to put it briefly, is expensive. Like a blog can’t foot, at least regularly, and TV either can’t or won’t because of economics.

    The best I can hope for is a couple of print outlets survive. Maybe the local papers will all disappear and be replaced by weekly free handouts or just greatly shrink, relying on cheapo local coverage and the surviving major papers syndicating the crap out of themselves. Actually, that could be a good model for the elite papers: still reasonably successful in their own markets then reselling their product outside the market. I know it goes on, I just think it could be a lot bigger for the survivors.

    And I’d like to think the New Yorker and Harpers and the Atlantic and the smaller magazines doing really, deep journalism will survive another generation or two.

  84. 1. The layout and structure. Websites seem to want to cram as many article leads as possible into the front page, where a newspaper would limit itself to 5 or 6 stories (or fewer for a tabloid)
    2. Just browsing the coverage. I get fewer “aha” moments from any single website than I get from the average newspaper.
    3. Window shopping the Sunday ads.
    4. Barbecue fire starter. I guess I’ll have to start using junk mail and old bills for this purpose.

  85. OK. nano tech and OLEDs will soon give us a “newspaper” you can hold, roll up and perhaps even page through. It may only need one page, but perhaps they’ll give it four for old times sake.
    What then?

  86. A paper like you describe would probably be one of these customizable i-devices where the consumer self-selects the content. Without the professional and editorial expertise of a responsible newsstaff to select and layout the “important” news of the day, we’d end up filling our i-papers with the kind of easy reading celebrity news that has already taken over so much of the paper today. As someone pointed out, that’s the stuff people actually read. I’m afraid that without a reputable and official slate of real news every day, we’ll lose something we all had in common and end up more divided, less connected and a lot dumber than we already are. Present company excluded, of course.

  87. I work for a newspaper that is in dire straits right now. I am a web developer, and I have to admit that I won’t miss the paper part. Though the print product is still more browsable, I think news websites will improve and new digital products will emerge (hopefully FOLEDs will mature soon).

    Of course, online news site have the same as newspapers: the current revenue model does not work. Most news organizations are trying to replicate what worked in print (blocks of ads) on the web. Sure, they’ve made those blocks of ads move around or take over the page, but it is essentially the same thing. And online subscriptions are analogous to print subscriptions. I will not miss the traditional newspaper revenue model.

    I believe a small organization will figure out a new revenue model that works for online news and we will start seeing quality journalism online (and on our portable foled displays). It may take a long time, but it will happen.

  88. I’m with kevbo. I’ll miss my job. My contemporaries who went for short-term high gains “working” in do-nothing dotbombs in the 90s missed out on a low-paying but very rewarding business. Right now I’m sitting at the office working on some incredibly ancient Macs. It’s not always fun, and it’s gotten downright grim and depressing in the last year, but it’s been fun. Plus, by working in prepress, and for historical reasons, I got to come to work in T-shirts and jeans. It’s not much of a perk, but it’s mine ;-)

  89. “I worry about the quality of a democracy when the the state government or the local government can do what it wants without intelligent coverage. I worry about the abuse of power when the only thing a corrupt official needs to worry about is the TV news. I worry about the quality of legislation when there isn’t a passionate, unbiased reporter there to explain it to us.”

    This is a perfect description of Italy in 2009. Down here we got deep investigative reporting only online, Newspapers got the same level of average TV news so they are collapsing (only people over 40 years old still buy them) and the bestselling newspaper sells less than 450.000 copies!

  90. I will miss in-depth reporting and ANY local news or local sports. The web misses the mark badly on those fronts. Unless you live in a major metropolis, there are no reliable local news sources other than the local newspaper.

  91. Print, paid-for newspapers might be disappearing in the USA and some European countries.

    World-wide, newspapers have yet to hit their peak. If you include free newspapers, even in the EU, circulation is rising, not falling. The USA is practically unique in falling circulation.

    here’s some numbers for you: http://www.wan-press.org/article17377.html

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