Blog

Feeding the digital machine

March 31, 2011

I hated the Sunday paper. As a 10 year-old paperboy pushing a shopping cart filled with the Boston Sunday Globe uphill I dreamed about the day they stopped publishing. Now I want it – and others like it – to stay vibrant. Because social media users and bloggers depend on it.

Newspapers and broadcast networks generated more than 99% of the stories linked to by bloggers, according to a Pew study from last year.  Against all odds, traditional media remains the prime news-gathering engine. For now.

As more people absorb those traditional news sources on computers and iPhones, and do so for free, how long will media companies be in position to pay reporters? Publishers continue to experiment with online fee models, like the New York Times pay wall approach. But there is no best practice yet established.

That’s where I come in. Well, me and millions of others who still read the print version of the newspaper each morning. We are a dwindling class that look to keep them afloat as they figure it out. Even my 70 year-old parents have cancelled their Globe subscription and read it on their iPad over the morning coffee.  When I complain that our morning paper never lands anywhere near the front door my wife dares me to cancel it. (My snow blower swallowed it one morning this February.) I am tempted to stop delivery but a higher calling keeps me from that act of treason.

Truth is, I get most of my news through digital channels. Twitter is my newsfeed, and I scour dozens of sites each day. Many newspapers and magazines are bringing stories to life with interactive graphics, video and other elements you can’t get in the print version. Still, reading the paper version of the Globe in the morning has been part of my life for more than 30 years. I love reading  the Wall Street Journal at lunch, flipping through the tabloid Boston Herald and picking up USA Today outside my hotel door. Most importantly, as a former reporter and a PR practitioner, I feel an obligation to keep professional news gatherers employed.

If more media companies wilt will the substance of what we read online become less compelling? Will rumors, fact-less opinions and branded messaging replace substantive analysis and hard news? Not completely. But I’m prepared to do my small part to stall the demise of traditional media distribution just long enough for publishers to figure out a better business model. I hope they do it soon because the aim of my newspaper delivery person gets worse by the day.

Photo: Jordan Polizzi