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I Get My News Online

I love the sensations a printed newspaper offers. The scent, the feel, the look of it. It’s part of the nostalgia that is print. Nostalgia? Yes, nostalgia. A printed newspaper is the way we used to read our news. For the first time ever, more people read their news online versus in print. All the fit-for-print news is now fit-for-digital too.

This finding is from recent Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism surveys that found 34% read news online within a 24 hour period before the survey, compared to 31% read newspapers. I know, it’s a slim margin… but it’s still a margin.

For me, it’s a question of convenience. A newspaper isn’t that practical anymore for me. When I can access the world’s news on my smartphone or Kindle, wherever I am, it doesn’t make sense to have the paper dropped at the end of my driveway anymore. I know a lot of you will disagree, but sooner or later, you’ll have to let go. Print is dying, a long, slow death. Just like Morse code, bunny ears, and typewriters, advancements in technology push out the old.

Maybe the survey was flawed? A fluke? Maybe people only read online news more in that random 24 hour period? Nope. The survey also looked at general patters of news consumption, such as where do people get most of their news from? 41% of respondents said in general they get most of their news online (a 10% margin over newspaper readers). The numbers get higher the younger you go, with 65% of 18-29 year olds getting their news online. Granted, local television is still the number one source of news for people, but when it comes to the news you read, online news is where it’s at.

The Annual State of the News Media Report from Poynter adds supports this point. Poynter recently reported the only news medium to experience year-over-year growth was online news media. Radio, TV, magazines, etc. – all experienced a decline. The only concern I have from any of this data is the drop in people who read their news. When asked if they read their news – in any format – only 40% said yes. Yikes. Call me crazy, but I think reading the news is important for staying informed and maintaining overall brain fitness.

What’s This Mean for Journalism?

If you still think print is going to rebound, you’re in denial. Much in the way you’d be in denial to think typewriters are going to make a comeback. The writing is on the wall, and the wall runs on electricity or batteries. But you know what? That doesn’t really change journalism. If you write for The New York Times, you can still write for The New York Times. How I read your articles may change, but how you write them doesn’t have to.

I think that’s the big part of this problem in this ‘print is dead’ debate. Nothing about the fundamentals of producing great journalism has changed. The tools for production, distribution and consumption have changed, that’s it. We haven’t figured out a way to replace journalists with technology, and I hope we never do.

So I get my news online… except for this morning, I just paid for The New York Times at Starbucks, even though I can read it for free on Starbucks’ new content portal. You know, I want to enjoy it while it lasts.

How do you get your news? Are you a die-hard print fan? Do you think you’ll ever be able to convert from print to digital? Do you think print will ever truly die?

About Jeremy Porter

Jeremy Porter is co-founder and editor of Journalistics, a lively blog about public relations and journalism topics.

  • http://thefutureofhealthcare.com Brian Newsome

    Jeremy, good points as usual. I disagree, however, when you say, “But you know what? That doesn’t really change journalism.” While it is true good journalism can be read online or in print, no one seems to have figured out a business model that financially supports journalism like newspapers once did. Would Bob Woodward really be given the time and resources to cover Watergate if he were a young W. Post reporter today? How many states’ metro papers have Washington reporters serving as watchdogs of their elected officials? And how many online readers appreciate the enterprise, in-depth stories that routinely appeared in the Sunday papers? When it becomes so difficult for a journalist to find a job or make a living wage and when content is driven by pageviews and SEO, this affects the quality of journalism.

    The Internet has improved journalism in many ways, especially when it comes to speed, access and crowd sourcing. But I truly worry about the press’s watchdog role and the societal impacts of reporters cranking 5 stories for the web at the expense of digging into records at city hall or building relationships with sources that will pay big later on.

    • Jeremy Porter

      The business of journalism has changed, yes. But I stand by my opinion that the fundamental mechanics stay the same. True, maybe Woodward wouldn’t get the same resources today, but he wouldn’t need them either – a blog would break the story and live blog updates way before he could get the scoop. Deep Throat would have called The Smoking Gun or HuffPo. So yes, in that sense, the delivery mechanism of journalism has changed too.

      Your last point is one I’m still digesting. I think there’s a shift in journalist-as-watchdog versus citizen-journalist-as-watchdog. When its more lucrative to report or blog on the sensational as opposed to the stories that don’t get told, I start to worry (part of the beauty in Spot.Us’ model – but that’s another story).

      Thanks for the comment.

  • http://rogerscime.com Roger Scime

    Every morning, I read the Reno Gazette-Journal while having my coffee and toast, and on Sundays, the Times. I let my eyes drift across each page and regularly discover something unexpected that catches my eye. I’ve learned something new.

    We’ve heard discussions about The Daily Me and how news delivery is in danger of becoming too niched, too segmented, too targeted, electronic gatekeepers providing us what we want, rather that what we need. That, I believe, is the danger inherent in online news: It’s too customizable.

    Screen size and tiny fonts limit the amount of information that can be displayed.

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a complete Luddite. Throughout the day I regularly visit HuffPo, WaPo, Salon, and other sites to get my news fix. But, I rarely come across anything unexpected. Articles are painfully categorized and those MORE >> navigators drive me crazy.

    • Jeremy Porter

      I think it’s more likely that the news will come to you, versus you having to switch where you go for news. How often do you already know about the story before you read the headline in the paper? News travels fast. If you’re plugged into the social Web, it’s rare that you miss current events. It’s the one-of-a-kind stories, or those with local flair, that I’ll miss. Hyper-local news models like Patch get me excited (if they were independent of AOL). There’s no right or wrong here – it’s a pretty exciting time to be working around this stuff.

  • http://www.lucythorpe.wordpress.com Lucy Thorpe

    In London, commuters on the tube across town and the trains out to the suburbs are all reading newspapers – free newspapers. The London Evening Standard is hugely well read and manages to pay for itself without charging customers. However, the content is pretty fluffy and certainly won’t give Woodoward any trouble sleeping.

    • Jeremy Porter

      You get the same think in NYC. I miss all the reading I used to do on the train. However, on my last trip up, I was surprised by how many newspapers now look like iPads or Kindles.

  • http://www.generationxmomblog.com Dalia

    As I sit here right now I am furious that my Sunday newspaper is missing from my driveway this morning! I still love a good cup of coffee and the morning paper on Sundays. All other days of the week I am too busy and always catch up online but to me Sundays are for slowing down and the last thing I want to do is be at my computer reading the paper.

  • Laura Dennis

    Regardless of how you feel about newspapers possibly fading out, electronic media is quickly becoming the source of all news. Technology is changing how our society functions, and it is crucial for everyone to follow the flow. The older generation seems to be having a problem with the thought of newspapers phasing out. Although they may be blind to the change, newspapers are eventually going to be a thing of the past. In your post, you used the word nostalgia to represent newspapers, and I would completely agree. Yearning for something in the past will not only prevent anything better in the future, but it will put a restraint on the huge possibilities that could come. With the ease of information coming from a person’s smart phone, Kindle, or tablet, it is that much easier to get information within seconds. Instead of waiting for information to be delivered to your door, you can have new information flooding your head constantly. All in all, I don’t see a danger in this new technology being introduced into our society. Even if newspapers died, journalism would still need to exist to get the information to the public. In reality, journalists will now have to work even harder to get information out to the public 24 hours a day.