Hello. My name is Royce Eddington, and I actually subscribe to print newspapers knowing full well there’s digital formats available for everything I’m reading.
Does this make me an evil forest killer? A heartless eco-monster? A knuckle-dragging throwback to days long gone?
Don’t get me wrong. I get the digital editions too, but I always start with the print edition. Here’s why…
- Ads mean something. An ad in the digital medium isn’t anywhere near as expensive as an ad in the print medium. So if someone takes out an ad in the print medium, it means something. Something important enough for someone to spend some serious MONEY on. Whether it’s a political statement, a fashion pitch, an obituary, or even congratulations for a job well done, I tend to find more meaning in newspaper ads than in some of the articles. For example, this last month there have been a flood of these ads… Personal Asset Loans? Well that’s a nice way of putting it. The thing is, this isn’t the only recurring ad with this kind of pitch. Not only is there now a market for the upper class to get “Personal Asset Loans”, but the newspapers now allow these ads because of the state of the economy.
- Prominent corrections and factual updates. In the digital editions, the mea culpas and the “oh, by the way, we should have mentioned…” parts are buried deep. The corrections and updates in the print editions? Always on page two and in the same font and point size as the print articles. Corrections can sometimes be just as important as the initial article. Take for example the corrections in the New York Times on March 17th … “While the safety agency (NHTSA) had received numerous complaints (for General Motors)… the NHTSA did not order the recall.” That one sentence alone puts a new light on GM’s motivations for the recall and also proves the NHTSA didn’t act on multiple consumer complaints in this particular instance.
- Stories in the print medium sometimes get cut from the digital version. A small article in the March 15th edition of The New York Times reported on how the restaurant / tourist attraction chain Buc-ee’s publicly came out and supported a particular southern Republican candidate. While a southern retail store supporting a southern Republican candidate is about as surprising as rain being wet, the fact that a retail chain put their entire corporate reputation and retail-level financial backing behind one candidate (of any party!) without any restrictions or sanctions is fairly important. Unfortunately, I didn’t see that article in the digital edition or in that day’s digest.
- Letters to the Editor and Op-Eds. To paraphrase the illustrious F. Gump, “You never know what you’re gonna get”. Sometimes it’s an unintentionally funny celebrity rant. Sometimes it’s the old “I know you are but what am I” give and take. Sometimes it’s an alien point of view coming in for a landing. And sometimes… sometimes it’s the stop-dead-in-your-tracks epic writing that should be framed in the Smithsonian and offered free with every birth certificate. Those two pages are dynamic. Infuriating. Genius. Hilarious. And completely missing in the digital edition.
- MOVIE POSTERS! FULL COLOR FULL PAGE GLORIOUS MOVIE POSTERS! THE WAY THE GOOD LORD INTENDED THEM TO LOOK! HALLELUJAH!! <ahem> Ok. Switching to decaf. Movie posters are not designed to be squished down in a corner underneath an ad for “Bubbas BBQ Special” in a newspaper or reduced to less than 1/10th its’ original size for digital presentation. There’s details in a good movie poster you won’t see when they’re shrunk-down, and there’s art in the very good movie posters you won’t see unless they’re full-sized. Don’t get me wrong – I love seeing previews and all the mini featurettes for a movie, but the movie poster is what’s the movie will be known as for forevermore. Its’ eternal portrait. Think of the Star Wars movie posters. How about O Brother Where Art Thou? Princess Bride? Reservoir Dogs? That’s what I mean. And that’s what I love seeing in print.
- The special Sunday edition. Sunday newspapers have always carried a stealthy implication with them: take it easy today. Right off the bat, Sunday editions are visibly bigger than anything that came earlier in the week. You can see you’re going to need time to digest it. You’re going to need a different pace today. Sunday newspapers also get specially wrapped for delivery, are printed on higher quality stock than the weekly editions, and even have a multi-page feature of some sort that would never appear during the week. All of these little things quietly imply that since the newspaper is different today, maybe it should be for you too. The Sunday digital editions? There’s nothing special there to suggest a change of pace or to imply Sunday is different from any other day of the week. There’s no intro flash movie. No animated opening. No attempt at time shifting. Just business as usual.
- The scent of newsprint makes coffee taste better. Do I have any facts to back this up? Any brilliant anecdotes to make this notion take wing and go soaring with the angels? Nope. But it does lead me to my next valid point…
- You can leave it for someone else to enjoy. This is the easiest and most contagious reason of all. Bring a newspaper wherever you go eat or have a break somewhere. Even if it’s a day old newspaper, chances are anything you fold and put aside are going to be snatched up and read and re-read and re-re-read and re-re-re-read throughout the day. There is no “worst case” in this. You lose nothing by leaving a newspaper behind in a fast food restaurant, coffee shop or break area for others to enjoy. Any reasonably-intact newspaper is always appreciated.
- Mini illustrations that add to the story. Sometimes a simple illustration changes everything. Sure, you can describe Skylab to someone who hasn’t seen it with a few paragraphs, but seeing an illustration of the 1970’s space station hovering in-line with the article is a whole different ballgame. When you see a face to go with the name, when you see an illustration of a product, when you see an impression of the art in question, it all becomes more “real”. I don’t see many inline illustrations with the digital articles, and I think it is because everyone assumes you can Google anything you want to see or know more about straight from the digital edition. That’s fine, but that also exactly the problem. Once you leave an article, with any search engine, there’s the rabbit-hole problem – one thing leads to another, and what started as a lookup for Skylab turns into a search for Russian Cosmonauts and who sells the best Russian vodka. The idea is to keep the reader focused on the article by giving them everything they need right there. Simple inline illustrations are a perfect way to do that, but due to the shrinkage of the digital edition, I just don’t see them making the transition. And finally, the big reason of all big reasons I still prefer print newspapers…
- There’s no such thing as a foldable newspaper-sized tablet.