When free is no longer good enough

Sunday Editions - Austin American Statesman

Sunday Editions – Austin American Statesman

For the last three Sundays, the Austin American Statesman, the local daily newspaper, has left free copies on the driveway. And as terrible as this sounds, I’m not thrilled about it. There’s nothing wrong with the Statesman, it’s a solid newspaper — though probably not at the caliber of the New York Times.

The thing is, I’m not much of a newspaper reader, at least not anymore. Worse yet, if I were on vacation, like I was last month, I could potentially have a couple of copies piling up on the driveway, advertising an unoccupied house to would be burglars. Not to mention, the need of recycling a stack of paper that pretty much goes unread. Three Sunday editions are a lot of paper.

I understand the predicament of the Statesman and other newspapers around the country. These organizations serve an important function and their jobs support many families. They are caught up in the rapidly changing, technology driven shift. And it’s not only newspapers, it’s magazines and even broadcast television.

Sports has been one of the few bright spots for broadcast TV. But ratings are down too, for the largest sports event of the year, the 2016 Rio Olympics. The drop in Olympic viewership is especially pronounced for younger viewers. Why watch for hours, along with the constant commercials for a 20 second run by Usain Bolt? The results are all over Twitter in an instant and the video on YouTube, if you care. My wife and I actually bucked the trend. We watched more of Rio than London or Beijing.

What’s our most precious resource? Sure, we can all use more money. But I’m guessing, for most people reading this blog, it’s time. The richest person in the world can’t manufacture more time. And because time is so lacking for many in this modern world, behaviors are changing, with the help of technology.

Saving time is key and the internet enables that. Use Netflix and binge watch, on your own time, without any commercials. Directly access news, instead of waiting and flipping through newspapers and magazines. Offering something for free, whether it’s newspapers or broadcast TV is no longer going to cut it. This is the brave new world, like it or not.

Finally, to the dedicated readers of this blog, thank you. Visiting my little world, viewing my photos and reading my stories, competes for your precious time. I very much appreciate your visits.


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6 thoughts on “When free is no longer good enough

  1. I prefer to read printed material whenever possible. I don’t subscribe to the newspaper not so much because of time but because the amount of paper used is quite a bit for a resource of such short lived value, even though I do recycle. Time is precious and there never seems to be enough of it. The Internet has the potential to save time. In practice, people screw it up more often than not. The interactive nature allows for plenty of advertisements that are a waste of time. Watching a weather forecast for a local station for example usually means having to wait for a commercial to play first. “Back in my day” we’d just glance at the weather page in the newspaper. 🙂

    1. I generally like printed material but this is starting to change. As my eyesight gets worse with age, I like how I can zoom in and make the print larger on computers.

      The internet can become a time suck if not careful. But, as you know, there is a difference between the web and the internet. I much rather go to my weather app than look at broadcast TV or the newspaper. It’s faster and up to the moment. For rain storms, I now use the live radar to time when the rain lets up, for example. Saved me many times from getting drenched.

  2. Funny about that eyesight thing. I find reading easier on screen too because it’s brighter and I can control font size and contrast. Garry has as many problems seeing as anyone his age, but he loves paper, so he still buys the paper every day, then sits and slowly absorbs it.

  3. Some newspapers go the giveaway route on Sunday to satisfy the circulation guarantees they make to national and regional advertisers who stuff that one edition with preprints. They’ve basically turned the newspaper into a delivery vehicle for all those multipage 4-color ads flogging fast food coupons, new and used cars, mattresses, and cosmetic products. Any news accompanying them is a bonus.

    1. Interesting. I’ve received glossy magazines before, which I knew were to establish or meet circulation demographics, but I didn’t consider that for newspapers.

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