SubScribe: Print v Digital, an unscientific survey Google+

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Print v Digital, an unscientific survey

If we want everything for nothing, how will our culture survive?

How do you take your news? The old-fashioned way with tea and toast at the breakfast table? Downloaded to your iPad overnight? On the Kindle on the train? At your desk on the office computer? With Fiona or Huw or Natasha at one, six or ten? Between songs on 6Music? Or nonstop, courtesy of Google and Twitter buzzing in your pocket all day?

There are so many ways to keep up to the minute. Does anyone need newspapers any more? And if we do, what do we use them for? For most people, they have long since ceased to be the primary source of news, yet we retain an affection for them. They are more tactile than a screen. We can fold them up, tear out snippets, put big red circles round things we might want to buy. They may not be used to wrap fish and chips any more, but they are still a better flyswat than a smartphone.

We're still more likely to cut out a recipe that catches our eye than to print it off on the computer and will a computer bookmark ever have the same appeal as that bit of yellowing paper we come across in the attic? The YouTube cats are charming, but they will never produce the warm glow of the moment you turn over a fading KwikFit ad (wondering 'why did I keep this?') to discover that precious pantomime review on the other side.

Businesses cannot survive on sentimentality.. Circulations are falling, advertisers are turning away and a solely digital future seems to beckon.

Mainstream news organisations arrived late at the digital party and are still several drinks behind the crowd. They haven't caught up with the conversation, are unsure of the etiquette and frankly don't understand what a lot of their fellow guests are on about. Knocking back three or four shots in quick succession won't help. The others have been taking things at a steady - if brisk - pace. To try to catch up like this leaves the newcomers fuzzy-headed, confused and open to mockery.

So what are they to do? What do we want them to do? It costs money to run a news organisation: there are journalists to pay, offices to rent or buy, computer systems to set up and maintain, print contracts to finance. 

Yet we, the public, don't expect to pay for anything any more. We demand free music, free apps, free downloads, free films. 

We don't want the fag of driving to town and paying extortionate parking charges to buy something we can get online more cheaply. And we carry on cheapskating as we do our shopping in our sitting rooms, expecting 
free delivery and free returns - not to mention the 'no quibble' right to reject whatever we've bought for no better reason than that we've changed our minds. 

And so our high streets are dying and we all say 'oh what a shame' as though it had nothing to do with us. Just as we did when the village stores closed, forgetting that we went there only when we wanted a loaf or had run out of cat food on a Sunday when the 'proper' shops were shut.

Thus it is with news. We expect it to come free. We used to moan about papers being 'all adverts',  now we moan about subscriptions and paywalls, as though it costs nothing to produce something of quality and value. We pay for the BBC by the licence fee, but we don't pay for Google or AOL beyond our basic Broadband bill. We can look at the Guardian or the Mail websites without parting a penny and we gasped in horror when James Harding confirmed that The Times was building a paywall, explaining: 'We cannot afford to give our journalism away for nothing.'

And yet, and yet...the Mail Online is the most successful news website in the world. So it can be done. Is there a magic formula that would allow others (possibly following a rather different agenda) to keep going 'across all platforms' as the jargon has it?   

The answer lies with us. We, the readers, hold the fate of our newspapers in our hands, just as we, the shoppers, control the future of the high street.

SubScribe has reworked the survey published last week to make it (with luck) more user friendly. Please  take a few minutes to contribute your thoughts and, please also ask your friends and family to join in, too. Thank you.


  1. Would probably buy mnore newspapers if delivery service was available. As it is, its a fag to have to go to shop to collect which is why its only once a week-this is for two reasons. 1. For the TV guide and 2. For various puzzles.
    The news element in this paper is a bit of a joke so main source of hard news is BBC and Sky.

  2. The standard of English in Anonymous's post above (typos, syntax, grammar, punction) is now sadly all too common in even the broadsheets.

    1. hmmm...seems a bit harsh, given that there is no reason to suppose that Anonymous makes his/her living from words or language or that s/he has anything to do with newspapers, tabloid or broadsheet.

      ...and in the glass houses department, punction? ooops!