Lamenting the Death of the Newspaper

Can you imagine writing your own obituary? Can you imagine what it would be like to know the exact day that you will die? As I mentioned in yesterday’s (7/18/2007) edition, the Cincinnati Post announced that it will cease publication on Monday, Dec. 31, 2007. Parent company Scripps-Howard has shuttered newspapers before, but the Post is their flagship, anchored in the company’s home town.

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That had to be difficult to the third power for the executives who delivered the bad news. It was a long time coming. In 2004 the Cincinnati Enquirer announced they would end their Joint Operating Agreement with the Post at the end of this year. Readership and ad revenues plummeted in recent years. It seems that not many people have a need for an afternoon paper anymore.

The Post entertained and informed me on many a warm afternoon in the shade of our backyard or in the living room on bad weather days. We have been faithful subscribers to both papers since October 1984.

The American newspaper survived the onslaught of radio and TV because those electronic media could not cover stories in depth, and they couldn’t have feature items such as comic strips, crossword puzzles, word games, and the sports section’s agate type page. Now, with the abundance of real-time online news websites and email/PDA/cell phone-enabled news streams, the demise of the newspaper is imminent. All of the traditional newspaper features can be found online. Ironically, newspapers might be shooting themselves in the foot by maintaining free up-to-date websites. Why should anyone pay for an outdated print version when they can get the latest news for free? Advertisers have not yet warmed up to the idea of spending major dinero on websites. And people don’t want to pay for premium web-only content or web subscriptions.

The beauty of the newspaper is that you can scan it and figure out what interests you very quickly. You don’t have to waste time clicking links or sitting through stories that don’t interest you. It gives you a broad snapshot of the world in one glance. It’s also a good social tool. Couples and friends can split the paper up and trade sections, calling each other’s attention to specific stories or comics, and commenting on them. My wife and I start every day with coffee and the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Bottom line: Young people don’t read newspapers, so eventually the wreckage will wash up on the beach as the population shifts. It’s sad, but true.

In the meantime, for the next 5.5 months, I will savor every edition of the Post as I would a good bottle of wine. And I will buy extra Dec. 31, 2007 editions.

Friday, July 20: The Future of HD Radio

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