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The Newspaper Isn't Dead Yet

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the through-no-fault-of-its-own dept.

The Media 108

theodp writes "Slate's Farhad Manjoo had high hopes for using the Kindle DX — Amazon's new large-screen e-reader — to read newspapers. A good first effort, says Manjoo, who concludes that for now newsprint still beats the $489 Kindle. While he has issues with latency, what he really misses relates to graphic design. The Kindle presents news as a list, leaving a reader to guess which pieces are most important to read. Newspapers, by contrast, opine on the importance of the day's news using easy-to-understand design conventions — important stories appear on front pages, with the most important ones going higher on the page and getting more space and bigger headlines. Also, because of its overnight delivery model, Manjoo gripes that the Kindle suffers from a lack of timeliness, making it not even as good as a smartphone."

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108 comments

But Cory said.... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410463)

But didn't Cory Doctorow just tell us that these "gatekeepers" are just getting in everyone's way?!? Clearly this guy from Slate is just horribly misguided and doesn't understand the world around him.

Re:But Cory said.... (4, Interesting)

DrLang21 (900992) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410617)

I'm just a little curious what makes a new article more important than another. When I pick up a newspaper, its rarely the front page article that interests me.

Re:But Cory said.... (4, Insightful)

Knave75 (894961) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410829)

Newspapers are filled to the brim with letters to the editor complaining that a certain "important" story was buried in the back pages by incompetent/evil editors. To some extent, these letters are correct: Often, important stories (in my view) are buried whereas the latest escapades of Paris Hilton make it to the front page. However, I do not have time to go through the entire paper, and I appreciate having a professional make a sort of triage estimate as to which stories are more important. Sure, mistakes are made, but I find that, in general, the important stories do appear on the front page, and it makes my reading experience that much better.

That said, I'm not sure why Kindle can't organize the stories like Google News, if I am interested in a story, it pretty much always appears in the top headlines. If necessary, they can license the technology from google, I'm sure they would embrace the partnership.

Re:But Cory said.... (2, Funny)

cloudwilliam (517411) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411459)

Your paper has Paris Hilton on the front page? Dude, the National Enquirer is not a newspaper.

Re:But Cory said.... (2, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412117)

There's a lot of newspapers with very little news of an value in them. My city has 2 major papers, and you can compare one [ottawacitizen.com] to the other [ottawasun.com] . The second one linked to often has Paris Hilton and the likes on the front cover. Their top news story for the day is something to do with monster trucks.

Re:But Cory said.... (2, Interesting)

billcopc (196330) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413361)

The Sun is typically considered a "recreational" paper. It appeals to the lowest common denominator, and shies away from serious political issues. It's a light-minded read for the diner or crapper, when you want to read about some ginger kid's extracurricular achievement or the local bullshitter's take on the latest faux-classy meat market.

The Citizen takes itself far more seriously as a news outlet, aimed at an intellectually-present (but average) crowd. It's the print form of the 6 o'clock news, for the most part.

My big beef with any publication is the painfully obvious bias they all push forth. I used to get a kick out of reading two "free" dailies, "Metro" and "24". The former is rather liberal, while the latter is conservative. Comparing their coverage and verbiage of the same event was often more informative than the actual printed words, simply by filling in the gaps each side chooses to ignore, and sometimes extrapolating the real bits both sides hint at but don't dare spell out. Despite the meta-entertainment value, I am quick to invalidate any publication that so blatantly tries to pass opinion as news.

I'm a sharply opinionated person, but I certainly don't claim to have "the truth". My blog is just that, a blog where I rant on and on about things that piss me off, like a geekier version of Bill Maher. You woulnd't try to pass Bill Maher's rants as fact, would you ? That's my problem with newspapers. They can't stick to the facts, though instead of launching inflammatory tirades at specific people or groups by prefacing them with "I think/feel/believe", they strategically omit important facts to skew the viewer toward a certain side of the matter. That's the biggest problem with news disseminators: they're on someone's payroll, and that someone wants value for their money, so they push an agenda. Whether it's "political donations", advertising, outright municipal blackmail (if you print X we revoke your permit)... every newspaper has a puppetmaster.

Re:But Cory said.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28416401)

"However, I do not have time to go through the entire paper, and I appreciate having a professional make a sort of triage estimate as to which stories are more important."

If only it worked that way. At our paper, we can't run any stories about plane crashes, problems with airplanes, or even obituaries unrelated to airplanes, within five pages of our largest advertiser, a regional airline. At the same time, we shrank our top news section to no more than 8 pages.

That same week was the crash of AF 447. The news desk had to bury it behind classifieds because the airplane ad was in the middle of our news section.

We could've cut that airline ad, at the cost of one of our jobs on the news desk from the lost revenue. That was an option delivered straight from our publisher, who's a real estate mogul.

Re:But Cory said.... (5, Interesting)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410903)

It's very simple: what will sell the most copies? Boosting circulation means being able to charge a higher rate for classifieds and advertising.

For tabloid papers, maximising circulation is explicitly considered by the editorial staff. They keep an eye on what subjects sell papers and promote similar stories to the front page.

Disclaimer: I worked for a small Newscorp paper in the classifieds department.

Re:But Cory said.... (4, Insightful)

TimHunter (174406) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411105)

Well, let's just take a look at what's on the front page of my local paper, the Raleigh (NC) News & Observer http://www.newsobserver.com/ [newsobserver.com] .
  1. An article about the demonstrations in Iran. Probably the biggest world story going on today. Big for USA, too, given our tenuous relationships with Middle Eastern countries. Also given Obama's recent speech in Saudi Arabia. Do I need to go on?
  2. An article about a local man donating a kidney as part of a national donation chain that involves 12 people. Local stories are important. Who else is going to cover them? The story's too big for a blogger and too small for CNN. This is the sweet spot for local newspapers.
  3. Another story in a continuing series about sweetheart relationships and possible corruption involving our previous governor. The N&O reporter uncovered dirt that so far has caused 4 Very Important People to resign. The federal prosecutor has convened a grand jury to look into things. It's apparent that the governor used his position to get privileges he shouldn't have, some of it paid with the people's money. We the people of the state of North Carolina would not have known about this had the N&O not investigated it. This is classic journalism and the reason we call it "the Fourth Estate."

Now go take another look at your local paper. Maybe there's something there you should be interested in.

Re:But Cory said.... (3, Informative)

dancingmad (128588) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411559)

Also given Obama's recent speech in Saudi Arabia.

I think you mean Egypt.

Re:But Cory said.... (2, Funny)

TimHunter (174406) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411723)

Good thing I'm not a newspaper reporter...

Re:But Cory said.... (2, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411141)

What the newspaper thinks are important stories appear on front pages, with the most important ones going higher on the page and getting more space and bigger headlines.

There, fixed that for ya.

Yes it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410469)

The newspaper is so dead, see? *points at the newspaper*

Re:Yes it is (2, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410589)

The newspaper is so dead, see? *points at the newspaper*

Like my 92 year old grandfather. Technically still alive, but everyone knows it's only a matter of time.

Re:Yes it is (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412461)

More like radio, everybody claimed (M-)TV killed it, but somehow it is still around, even 30 years after it supposedly died.

Don't hold your breath on newspapers, they will still be big in 50years, might be 10% or 20% of what they are now, but that is still a lot. They will whine from now on and until then, and people will proclaim them dead nonstop, but they wont die.

google news (4, Interesting)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410483)

Why not just wait until you get to the office and then browse the world's newspapers with google news?

Re:google news (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410531)

I'm not sure if you realize this, but some people actually have to work when they get into the office. And some people have hour+ long commutes to deal with. So being able to do something simple like reading the news while you'd otherwise be sitting on your ass is the ideal solution. Not that I'd expect you to understand that.

Re:google news (5, Funny)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410879)

I'm not sure if you realize this, but some people actually have to work when they get into the office.

Well, yes... some people do. Not anyone who reads /. though! So the original point was pretty valid for this audience!

Co... comm... commute? Why not live close to work? (2, Insightful)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411113)

Wo... Wor... Work? What is this "work" of which you speak?

In Portland, Oregon, we have the Ore-groan-ian, also known as the Bore-gonian, also known as the Whore-gonian for its ads that try to take advantage of people.

Newspapers do badly not just because they kill trees to communicate, but because they think only of advertising money. George W. Bush was wonderful until it became more profitable to discuss his destructiveness toward the country. Abusers eventually lose; in this case it has taken a long time.

Newspapers also do badly because, by the time you see the newspaper, you have already read the same story on Google News.

Another reason is that, while you are commuting, you can possibly find enough Wi-Fi to read Google News on your laptop.

Another reason is that the newspaper carries only enough of the story to fit between the ads. They ABSOLUTELY do not care about educating you about the story. They care ONLY about their ad revenue. Did I mention that?

All only my opinion, of course.

Re:Co... comm... commute? Why not live close to wo (1)

halofan_sd (683327) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412883)

paper companies grow trees for the purpose of making paper, they are not cutting trees in the wild.

Re:Co... comm... commute? Why not live close to wo (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413783)

L.A. = Expensive place to live and job isn't stable so not worth moving closer until things are stable. :P

Re:Co... comm... commute? Why not live close to wo (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413795)

Another reason is that, while you are commuting, you can possibly find enough Wi-Fi to read Google News on your laptop.

So i am going to have my laptop on my passenger seat while I drive 45 minutes to work?

That reason might work if you have some sort of public transportation and are not the one driving, but its not as easy as reading the paper while you get stuff together in the morning or some such.

Personally I use my media center in the morning and put Google News up on my TV to at least know the headlines to see if I want to check them fully later.

Re:google news (0, Troll)

masmullin (1479239) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412489)

Thats why I took up masterbation on the bus. This way:
- my shower is quick and productive
- I can enjoy a long, sensual stroke lasting 45min or so
- I'm ready for a tough work day

The lady bus driver always smiles at me too!

Re:google news (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#28415387)

"I'm not sure if you realize this, but some people actually have to work when they get into the office."

I'm not sure if you realize this, but some people actually have a sense of humour.

Re:google news (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410537)

because the suits, the manager and the company proxy do not like it
i live in a part of the world where i get THREE FREE newspapers distributed at the subway/metro
and i enjoy reading slashdot on my new HTC Magic Android phone ^_^

Google news has drawbacks (3, Interesting)

unixan (800014) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410907)

I used to read Google News exclusively, then I stopped (well, relegated it to minority status) in favor of other news sites for some reasons:
  1. More and more stories seem to be opinion pieces / glorified blogs, not genuine news.
  2. Because of the 15-minute refresh interval, top stories can rotate out before you've had a chance to go see it.
  3. The RSS feed doesn't seem to be organized by any sensible order; important top news would be a good starting point, at least.
  4. Every new organization has different standards for story depth; using Google News gives you inconsistent coverage because it doesn't seem to take story depth into account when choosing a source to link to.

And most irritating of all, sometimes the source being linked to wants you to register / login and possibly pay for subscription. I'm not against subscribing in order to pay for the effort, but I'm not going to pay subscription to every news site that Google News links to.

And besides, a local newspaper provides you local-interest stories that can be important to know, in addition to the same kind of news that Google News collects.

Re:Google news has drawbacks (1)

Brandee07 (964634) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411765)

I like Google News, but I would never use it as a primary news source; it's inherently sensationalist. Whatever lots of people are writing about is what makes it on the front page. You're just as likely to see Jon&Kate drama as you are to see Iran protests. That's the downside of using an algorithm instead of human editors.

What I do use it for is getting the whole picture on a particular event. Read articles on the same event from Fox, CNN, BBC, AP, Al-Jazeera, NYT, and Daily Kos, and you're likely to understand a) what actually happened, b) the possible outcomes, and c) what the nutjobs on all the various extremist sides think, and what they might do about it.

Re:google news (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412887)

And what about the vast majority of the world's population who don't work at a computer?

Re:google news (1)

jawahar (541989) | more than 5 years ago | (#28417247)

Only 1% of World Population is ONLINE. Rest of them are connected through Newspapers, Mobile phones, and Word of Mouth.

I like new spapers (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410505)

They tell me what is for nbrekafast and lonch and they are bad fr teh crimunals who smok pote! I lrned to write usihg thge newspapers and poo pn my toiled seat wit smelly brown poo jb in th water!!!!!!!!!

"leaving a reader to guess..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410539)

"leaving a reader to guess which pieces are most important to read."

Yeah, I hate that. Much better if the editor tells us what is important. Like, it's not as if I'll have a different opinion or anything.

News, schmooze. It's all the same at the end fo the day isn't it. Man bites dog; Judge in gay love nest horror plot; prime minister justifies war with humongous lie blah blah. I really need the editor to let me know what is important.

I find the paper much more cost-effective (5, Funny)

localroger (258128) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410553)

Lining my parrot's cage with Kindles would get expensive.

Re:I find the paper much more cost-effective (4, Funny)

LoverOfJoy (820058) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410827)

It's only more expensive at first. Once you get enough Kindles to line the cage, you can wash them and never have to buy another one. Try washing newspapers! Parrots live a long time and eventually you'll find that those Kindles actually pay for themselves and end up saving you money!

Re:I find the paper much more cost-effective (1)

localroger (258128) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411777)

Interesting! I wonder though if the Kindles would still work as newspapers after being washed. I know the digital paper will retain the last image even if the Kindle stops working, but my parrot is an eclectic reader and he would quickly get bored if the news stopped being updated.

Re:I find the paper much more cost-effective (1)

KarlIsNotMyName (1529477) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411485)

So was I the only one thinking "Would Kindles make a parrot able to tell me the news"?

Re:I find the paper much more cost-effective (2, Interesting)

dancingmad (128588) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411579)

Meh, at least there's the chance the parrot could read you the news. No such luck with the Kindle now.

Re:I find the paper much more cost-effective (1)

rwyoder (759998) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414785)

Lining my parrot's cage with Kindles would get expensive.

Well, since you brought it up... I must argue the newspaper isn't dead, it's just resting.

The real problem is marginal cost (3, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410615)

The real problem with newspaper economics is that the cost of production is almost entirely fixed cost, and the marginal cost is very small. That is, the main cost is in gathering the news and putting together the stories and laying up the first copy; once you've paid those fixed costs per issue, an additional issue costs very little. Hence, the incremental cost of internet publication is almost nothing-- they've paid the fixed cost to gather the news already. This means that competition drives newspapers to put their content on the internet for free: there's little cost reason not to (they've already paid the cost of producing the content), and they're competing against other newspapers, who can also put it on the internet for free, so there's no way they can keep the content valuable by restricting access.

In the old "print" days of newspapers, this was not a problem-- there would be only a few newspapers in a town; and the customers were given the choice of buying a newspaper or not reading the news. With the internet, though, newspapers are no longer local, so all the newspapers compete on the internet with each other, and there is no real bottom to the cost.

The only real solution is for newspapers to continue to go out of business. When this reaches the point where there are only a handful left, they might be able to start a model of restricting access to paid customers. They're still competing against bloggers and crowdsourcing, of course, but the actual professional (which is to say, paid) reporter model of newsgathering may have advantages in the quality of news, sufficient that it may be worth it for some customers to pay for.

(This is a general problem in free market theory, by the way, not specific to newspapers-- in a market with many small producers (rather than one or two large ones), when the marginal cost of production is close to zero, the equilibrium free market cost is zero, and thus everybody is driven out of business...)

I don't see a problem here... (3, Interesting)

Cross-Threaded (893172) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410807)

There is no problem at all. (Either in the specific issue of newspapers, or in the general free market theory you mention).

I see it as the natural evolution of services. A limited news disseminating tool is replaced by another much less limited one.

All business models will eventually be replaced with a better model.

Re:I don't see a problem here... (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411929)

Cross-Threaded wrote:

I don't see a problem here...

Well, if the answer "newspapers die because their business models no longer work" is fine with you, then you're right, from your point of view, there isn't a "problem."

I was pointing out why their business models don't work. Whether or not that's a "problem" depends on whether or not you think that it matters.

Re:The real problem is marginal cost (4, Insightful)

Norsefire (1494323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410825)

Do you actually understand that almost all of a newspapers revenue is derived from advertising, not from paper sales? And apparently a lot of companies haven't got the memo that newspapers are dead because they still pay exorbitant prices for advertising spots on the front pages of small hick-town newspapers. And apparently a lot of people that subscribe to newspapers haven't got the memo because they still subscribe to it.

People who read websites like Slashdot will access information from the Internet, the majority of people still read newspapers.

I actually like the newspaper format better, it has a beginning and an end, I can it over breakfast. I'd have trouble even reading the new Slashdot summaries over breakfast, not to mention the articles.

Re:The real problem is marginal cost (1)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410959)

The biggest earner is classifieds, followed by advertising. And yes, local content is king for newspapers: Google News is not going to carry the local gossip.

Re:The real problem is marginal cost (4, Interesting)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411069)

The biggest earner is classifieds,

Classifieds are free now. They're called "Craig's list". Classified ad revenue used to drive newspaper revenue, but for newspapers that's now in the dumpster.

followed by advertising.

Local advertising doesn't pay when people read free online news from some paper a thousand miles away.

And yes, local content is king for newspapers:

For the most part, not enough interest there to sell a daily newspaper. A weekly paper, yes. But you're right, that's a niche that they could try to sell. It'll be a hard sale, though-- when you go to google news, what fraction of your time do you spend looking up local news?

Google News is not going to carry the local gossip.

Actually, Google news does carry local news and gossip.

Re:The real problem is marginal cost (1)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411079)

As it happens, I agreed with you before we met [clubtroppo.com.au] .

Re:The real problem is marginal cost (1)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411095)

Addendum: I hate to seem like I'm spamming that link, but it pretty much covers all I have to say on this subject.

Re:The real problem is marginal cost (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412163)

Hmm, I've never even used Google news. I don't carry my computer to lunch with me to read news while eating. I don't carry my computer into the restroom with me either. And a list of too-brief headlines doesn't make me want to click on them, especially with the terrible navigation most news sites have. So I read the paper, plus check some stories at work with BBC in-between compiles. If my newspaper goes away, nothing will replace it, certainly not the web or some silly gadget.

Re:The real problem is marginal cost (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412135)

And some who read slashdot also read newspapers.

It's a fad of some slashdot readers to declare the death of anything that can be done in a different more technical way. As soon as 5 people purchased Kindles, one of those people declared that anything that came before the Kindle was dead (not just obsolete or on the road to obsolescence). Now that there are a total of 10 people who've purchased a Kindle some have noticed it isn't the perfect replacement.

Re:The real problem is marginal cost (1)

mqduck (232646) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413623)

Nobody's saying Kindle will be the replacement. In fact, most people are saying it won't be. You're confusing that with saying that newspapers are dead, which is a sentiment for the most part strongly denied only by newspapers.

Re:The real problem is marginal cost (2, Informative)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410931)

Most newspapers lose money on the cover price. The real money is in classifieds and advertising.

What is killing newspapers is not competitive sources of content, it is competitive ways to place classifieds and display advertising [clubtroppo.com.au] .

Disclaimer: I used to work for a small Newscorp newspaper in the classifieds department.

Re:The real problem is marginal cost (3, Interesting)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411003)

With the internet, though, newspapers are no longer local, so all the newspapers compete on the internet with each other, and there is no real bottom to the cost.

The only real solution is for newspapers to continue to go out of business.

The first part of this quote is the clue to why the second part isn't necessarily correct. The internet does "local" really, really badly -- currently, at least.

Searching for a local service in Google, in English, will most probably give you either a large international dot.com result, or dozens and dozens of link farm sites. It's pretty hard to find the right answer. This is less true if you search in a more localized language, because the link-farmers haven't bothered gaming Google as much with that yet. But in English, you're pretty much going to have to search for a while to find anything meaningful local. Google and others have a very long way to go with improving search.

Local newspapers are useful. There's dozens of scandals and stories happening in every reasonable sized town. No-one, upon no-one is really digging into those stories. Someone should.

People will buy newspapers that actually inform them about what is going on locally. It doesn't have to be up-to-the-second relevant. A big expose of a local political scandal can wait a day or two if no-one else is carrying the story, and no-one is. People will not buy local papers that have international stories or celebutard crap in them -- they can find that anywhere and everywhere on the net. People will buy local papers that have genuine local investigative news in them. Local papers are a good place to advertise local services -- because the internet serves them badly too.

Put local news and local advertisers together and you have absolutely no competition for that model right now. People keep thinking too big. This is one case where small is strong.

Re:The real problem is marginal cost (1)

nausea_malvarma (1544887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411985)

The internet does "local" really, really badly -- currently, at least.

I disagree. The internet, by nature, reaches an international audience, but local communities can still connect to eachother online. Take a look at craigslist.

Here in New Jersey, we have nj.com [nj.com] which does local news well (though the site itself is unorganized). A lot of the newspapers contribute stories to the site. If newspapers put more energy into sites like these, they might survive. They would not make near the amount of money they used to make, but they'd stay in buisness. Use the craigslist model, and create community portals of classifieds, announcements, and things for sale. Then add some news.

Sounds like Music (2, Insightful)

PleaseFearMe (1549865) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411247)

Making copies of the song is very cheap; all the cost is in the production. Problem with newspapers is that they can't copyright the news. We "discovered" this "idea of what happened yesterday" first, so therefore, if you want to learn about it, you must buy our newspaper. Capitalism :(. One possible life saver for most of the newspapers is the local news, ie the new sheriff in town. But as people start living in the internet more, they may even stop caring about who the new sheriff is.

Re:Sounds like Music (1)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411327)

But as people start living in the internet more, they may even stop caring about who the new sheriff is.

That's pretty much what got Bush two terms, wasn't it?

Re:The real problem is marginal cost (1)

zenspeaks (1337157) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411857)

However, you need to factor in the element that a good chunk of news that comes on to smaller newspapers is syndicated content from a Reuters or AP...!

The real problem is not marginal cost (2, Insightful)

1369IC (935113) | more than 5 years ago | (#28415393)

"With the internet, though, newspapers are no longer local, so all the newspapers compete on the internet with each other, and there is no real bottom to the cost."

I think you stated the solution as a negative fact. Newspapers can be local. In fact, they need to be local, because local is a value they can add to the equation. They can still gather and arrange facts better than anybody, and they can still get access and sell the product of that access. People will still pay for that.

What they can't do is all compete as national/international publications anymore. They could do that when there were only a few choices, first, the two or three local big papers, and later the one big local paper and the national papers flown or satellited in: NY Times, USA Today, etc. So Muncie or Syracuse could have a national/international publication with what they did supplemented by the news services.

The internet kills that by putting all those pseudo-national publications in the same market, and there's just not a market for that many national papers. And the Muncies and Syracuses can't compete with the NY Times and the Washington Post at the national and international level.

The market I think we need to look at is magazines. The old truism was that there was a market for three major publications on any subject: Road & Track, Car & Driver and Motor Trend. Usually there were two biggies and a third guy trailing and doing things differently. After the big three you went niche: magazines dedicated to Porsches, local or regional mags, British roadsters, muscle cars, etc. They all did fine, but they didn't challenge the big guys.

So if that's the model we're headed for, you'll get your big three -- NY Times, Washington Post and one other one, take your pick from a half dozen -- and a bunch of niche papers: Wall Street Journal, papers smart enough to be very local, maybe a Kansas City paper or a Mountain states paper for their regions, that kind of thing. I can envision a tier, actually: your local paper that will sit through the town hall meetings and catch the locals in graft and corruption; the state or regional paper that has resources the locals don't and knows its area better and will cover grain prices or water rights issues, and has access the NY Times doesn't and doesn't want to provide; and a national paper.

They just need to figure out a model quickly and kick the bean counters the hell out of the office suites. In gradual school I read a study about the second papers in major cities and how they died. In every case they weren't making enough money, so they cut staff and/or pages (or color, or paper quality, whatever) to protect the profit margin. The readers noticed they were getting less value and defected, which made advertisers go and/or rates drop, and so the papers made cuts to protect the profit margin. It was a death cycle that they didn't figure out and eventually the big paper in town bought them out. The exception that proved the rule was one paper run by the heir to the family tradition who said to hell with it and added reporters. The readers noticed and sales went up and that paper ended up devouring the one that had been bigger. But bean counters will never get it. It's what they did to GM (cut costs and therefore quality to increase margins and be amazed when nobody wants to buy your cars). You see it day after day in corporate America. Bean counters don't know what you do, they don't know quality when they see it, but they can count and they know everyone in business is supposed to bow to the great god of profit.

It's not that I'm against profit, but you've got to make money doing a good job at what you do. If the recurring financial bubble fiascoes teach us anything, it should be that bankers, accountants and these all-purpose managers aren't the answer to anything in particular, even banks.

Plea to consider the consequences (1)

ctmurray (1475885) | more than 5 years ago | (#28415557)

There is a reason the press is considered the fourth estate [wikipedia.org] . They serve a role in our society that bloggers and news consolidators do not yet fulfill. Think of the various investigative reports and whistleblower services each good local paper provides. These checks on the system only work when the published report is widely read and available (to be picked up by TV and national media), which is not the case for electronic systems. I think no electronic location has mindshare enough, and generates enough cash to support the staff for this function. In my area all the best reporters have been laid off during the recession and are showing up on a good blog MinnPost [minnpost.com] . But they can't find a business model or audience (although you can donate to them to help as I have done). But very few of the readers of the papers know that MinnPost exists, it took me quite a bit of time myself. My plea is to consider what happens along these lines when the audience is fragmented to many many blogs with a niche perspective or audience. As an example, Michelle Bachman is my congresswoman and without the papers her silliness would go unnoticed - ironically I am going to link a blog [blogspot.com] so you can see what I mean, but these all came out in the papers for the entire district to see. The press may be the only think keeping her from the deep end.

BTW the largest electronic readership web site is that of the paper [startribune.com] , but without the print edition I am not sure the online edition would survive long.

What a concept (2, Insightful)

genghisjahn (1344927) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410647)

"The Kindle presents news as a list, leaving a reader to guess which pieces are most important to read." Leaving the read to guess or leaving the reader to decide which article is more important? Part of the reason newspapers are in trouble is because they tell they reader what they think is important. Anyway, it's still a list of articles by section. Just put the "important" ones at the top, so us morons will know what's important.

Re:What a concept (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410715)

"Just put the "important" ones at the top, so us morons will know what's important," writes genghisjahn in response to an article picked by an editor and placed at the top of the story list.

Re:What a concept (3, Interesting)

Brandee07 (964634) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410789)

To be fair, articles on /. are chronologically ordered. EVERY article has it's turn at the top. In a newspaper, the real news could be on page 3, but the editor isn't interested in it or doesn't think it's important.

Re:What a concept (1)

mqduck (232646) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413705)

I don't browse the sections so I'm not sure, but don't only certain stories get chosen for the front page?

Re:What a concept (1)

genghisjahn (1344927) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412373)

You have me there...

Re:What a concept (3, Insightful)

TimHunter (174406) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410975)

Part of the reason newspapers are in trouble is because they tell they reader what they think is important.

Wrong. One of the reasons we pay for a newspaper is to have professional editors select and rank-order news for us. There is far, far too much "news" out there for us to be able to do this on our own. Newspapers choose what they think their readers will be interested in (and frequently, what they think their readers should be interested in) and present it accordingly. Yes, they do know more than you do about the news. It's how they make their living.

If you don't like the selections they've made on your behalf, choose another paper. If enough people dislike the selections, the newspaper will have to get another editor.

Re:What a concept (1)

nausea_malvarma (1544887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412003)

If enough people dislike the selections, they will simply migrate to the internet

Fixed that for you.

Newspaper industry needs help! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410671)

They need help getting lead out of the woods. They got lost when all this "new" technology started appearing.... about the end of last century...

How could they not have figured out by now how to deliver their content to readers electronically using micro payments or subscriptions...

No you don't need a kindle to read an electronic document ffs. Shouldn't our cellphones suffice? We can charge the micro transaction with "minutes" by sending SMS. Get a SMS back with a code we can enter on their website from any computer to view the article. Or have it email delivered to an email capable headset.

Get the ball rolling on something, or you will die and it will be your own fault. This is no time to be deer in headlights.

Newspapers on the Kindle (4, Informative)

Brandee07 (964634) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410761)

Some information for informed discussion:

I rather like my newspaper on the Kindle, just for the fact of the small size and not having to crawl under the car to retrieve the paper. In addition, articles are in one piece, not continued on page A28. The articles are not abridged. The rest comes down to the individual paper and their publishing habits, and how much effort they're putting into the Kindle edition.

I get the Washington Post on my Kindle. It never has more than one picture per article, and sometimes when there are multiple pictures in the print edition, the wrong caption is attached to the picture in the Kindle edition. There are no ads, classified, comics, crosswords, sudokus, or horoscopes. All of the local sections and once-a-week sections are included. It is delivered every morning while I stand on the metro platform. The download takes about 30 seconds. Make sure to get it on the platform- Sprint doesn't have towers in the tunnels in DC.

There are separate sections for "The Front Page" "Politics & Nation" "World" and "The Fed Page," which I believe (not sure) are all rolled into the A section in the print edition.

You can clip a whole article with two clicks, which copies the whole article into a text file that can later be moved to a computer.

Periodicals are automatically deleted when they are more than seven issues old. You can flag any particular issue to be saved, and it will not delete it, although once seven issues have passed (a week for newspapers, seven months for magazines), you will no longer be able to re-download that issue from Amazon, although if you have stored it on your computer, you can always re-load it by USB. This is a demand on the newspapers part, as they make good money selling back articles. It's also largely moot, as most people throw away their newspaper when they're done reading it anyways.

The Kindle newspapers are no less timely than print newspapers, as they ARE the print paper in content. For breaking news, there's the NYTimes Breaking News Blog, which I don't subscribe to, and Google News open on my browser during the day at work.

The Washington Post has made huge leaps over the past year and a half on their Kindle edition. Every couple months I notice something in the layout has changed, and always for the better. When they made that big deal about the Business section being rolled into the A section, it has remained separate for Kindle users- the change was made to save on printing costs, after all.

I read my news on the Kindle 2. The Kindle 1 has a different set of behaviors (never automatically deleted old newspapers, leading to memory filling up, no joystick for easy navigation). The DX is just a Kindle 2 with a larger screen and (reportedly poor) native PDF support, so newspapers should not be any different than on the K2.

It's REALLY EASY to go get a single issue of a different paper, if you want one that day. Today I want to read the LA Times and see what's happening in my parent's area? It's kinda hard to find newsstands selling the LA times in DC, but I can do it easily on the Kindle.

No periodical that I know of has TTS disabled, although it's a terrible idea. The TTS software is terrible with proper names.

The main issue with newspapers on the Kindle stems from- what else?- DRM. A normal book purchase for a Kindle is available on all devices associated with that account (up to 6). A periodical subscription is tied to one device only. That means if you have His and Her Kindles, then you'll need two subscriptions for both devices to get the same paper. Also, this means that if you are backing up back issues on your computer and your Kindle breaks and is replaced, you will lose access to those back issues, unless you break the DRM. Switching which Kindle a periodical is assigned to is easy, but if you change your settings twice a day every day, you are likely to attract attention. Periodicals can only be assigned to Kindles, not to iPhones/iPod touches, although iPhones have their own methods of newspaper-getting.

Anyone have any questions about the actual implementation of Kindle newspapers? Nothing like actual facts to base a discussion off of!

Re:Newspapers on the Kindle (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410883)

Some information for informed discussion: ...

Geez. The first time I've read anything informative on the subject. Between the promotions by Amazon and the trolls proclaiming that newspapers are dead, it's a refreshing change to see your post.

That said, I'm curious. The articles in the Washington Post (or any other newspaper you've seen on the Kindle), are they formatted in single or multi-columns? And the "front page" (if there is one), is it laid out similar to the respective web edition, or does the Kindle edition offer something unique?

Re:Newspapers on the Kindle (1)

Brandee07 (964634) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410969)

They are all single column. The Kindle 2 screen is too narrow for two columns, in my opinion.

They are SUPPOSE to be providing multi-column, more traditional newspaper layouts for the DX, but they have not yet. I do know that the Kindle 1 and Kindle 2 actually receive different versions of the newspaper to handle their different navigation schemes; the same newspaper downloaded on a Kindle 1 will have Next Article-Previous Article links at the beginning and end of every article. The K2 does not, as a left or right push on the joystick will achieve the same thing. Content does not differ. So, it's not a big jump to assume that whenever Amazon/the newspapers are ready, you'll see columns on the DX, while the Kindle 2 will remain single-column. No guarantees on when or if they'll deliver, though.

"The Front Page" includes any article where the headline is on the front page of the print edition. There's normally only 5 or so articles.

Re:Newspapers on the Kindle (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#28417321)

Thanks for the extra info. I think I will be buying a Kindle. That's not to say, of course, that I expect it to be a perfect solution for me, or for the newspaper industry.

Sociological, not technical. (3, Interesting)

mevets (322601) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410923)

At a certain distance Slashdot shares many important characteristics of a newspaper. There is the equivalent of an editorial board that prioritizes, categorizes and rejects various stories. There is a shared experience with other readers, and there is feedback.

Certainly /. is more feedback centred than a traditional newspaper, but if you browse at +5, not so much.

I look at google news to see what is going on; but I read the globe-and-mail and Toronto Star because I am interested in their perspective.

Re:Newspapers on the Kindle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28411031)

Would rather read news on good old-fashioned newspaper, because I would rather not bring my Kindle to the toilet for fear that Amazon would find out and would not allow me to return it anymore.

Re:Newspapers on the Kindle (1)

nausea_malvarma (1544887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412041)

You think that's bad? Just wait till they make the Kindle 3. It'll have cameras in it, so they can watch you piss.

Re:Newspapers on the Kindle (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411217)

There are no ads, classified, comics, crosswords, sudokus, or horoscopes.

Seriously? I would think leaving those out would be a huge mistake, except for maybe crosswords and sudokus, those would be hard - but maybe worth it in the end.

No wonder they don't like these new distribution models, they're not pushing their advertising to them! Just throw them up for free until you work out a new pricing model or whatever (shouldn't really change though). People love the classifieds and comics, and classifieds and ads are how the newspapers make money.

Re:Newspapers on the Kindle (1)

Brandee07 (964634) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411809)

Seriously? I would think leaving those out would be a huge mistake, except for maybe crosswords and sudokus, those would be hard - but maybe worth it in the end.

I don't know why they do it, just that they do. I'm glad they do, since ads suck and Craigslist got me 3 of my last 4 jobs, where newspaper classifieds have failed me, but I don't know that it was a wise business decision.

Re:Newspapers on the Kindle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28411375)

I'd be sold, except ... I do most of my reading overseas, and it won't work for me overseas. Yes, the military is anti-thumb drive and wireless access on base sucks. If it were GSM instead of sprint, I'd be sold already. Maybe they'll have a GSM version which will work in the US too. (you know, bands and such). Same thing with airports. I don't want to pull out my laptop to update the kindle; that kind of negates half the point of the kindle. Maybe soon.

Re:Newspapers on the Kindle (1)

Brandee07 (964634) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411835)

That's another important point- Amazon's international support is nonexistent at best, and if all the computers you have access to are thumb-drive disabled (like anything belonging to the DoD), then you're SOL.

This is a major problem for one of Amazon's target demographics, the business traveller. If all of your travel is in the states, then great, but many people do end up doing lots of international travel.

Re:Newspapers on the Kindle (2, Interesting)

runstopwire (952752) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412197)

I've owned a Kindle 2 for three weeks. I subscribe to the NY Times on it. Having it automatically delivered to the Kindle every morning is great! I don't even need to get out of bed. I spend about an hour each morning reading the articles. I don't use the table of contents; I prefer to read linearly from front to back. Doing so has certainly led me to read many more articles than I normally would have using something like Google News. It's this kind of "serendipitous reading" that makes reading a magazine or newspaper so much more enjoyable than cherry-picking articles on a website. If the article is accompanied by a compelling picture, I'm even more likely to read it.

The news industry is gravely worried that ability for websites and our browsers to filter and deliver exactly the kind of information we are specifically interested in will negatively impact our society in the long run. Sure, I can focus your reading to just the articles I like, but that's the problem: I'd rarely read alternative viewpoints or stumble across previously-unknown subjects. It's been a real pleasure.

The newspaper isn't dead... (1, Funny)

McGregorMortis (536146) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410765)

... it just smells funny.

Wait what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410801)

So the issue is that the reader has to choose which news are most important to him?
Seriously?

It's not about the content, it's about the money. (2, Insightful)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410855)

As I have pointed out here and elsewhere [clubtroppo.com.au] , newspapers do not make their money from selling copies; they make it on classifieds and advertising.

All the stuff about bloggers being better than journalists, or journalists being better than bloggers, is a total sideshow. It's about money.

Re:It's not about the content, it's about the mone (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411365)

All the stuff about bloggers being better than journalists, or journalists being better than bloggers, is a total sideshow. It's about money.

Not really, it's central to their problem. You would be absolutely correct to say that news stories are not the product for a newspaper. Neither is advertisement space though, not completely. The product is the eyes of readers on that ad space. The more eyes they have the more valuable the ad space, and the more they can charge for classifieds and advertisements.

If bloggers can produce a similar quality product to newsprint articles and can put more eyes on the ad-space or provide the same number of eyes for less money, advertisers will start choosing bloggers instead of newspapers. This devalues the adspace, which means they cannot sell the space for as much, and they lose money.

Therefore, maintaining the perception (true or not, I personally think it is valid but not universaly true) that trained journalists offer more reliable high quality news than "amature" bloggers is of critical importance. It's not a sideshow, it is the core of their business model, and without it newspapers are little more than penny-saver ad periodicals.

Re:It's not about the content, it's about the mone (1)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 5 years ago | (#28416787)

Circulations are still healthy for most newspapers. Many small newspapers publish content only of interest to locals and they get those eyeballs because of it.

But eyeballs do you no good if a) Craigslist sucks the money out of classifieds and b) online advertising rates continue to plunge like a chunk of lead, making a shift to online news worthless.

There's more to it than that, but as I said: it's about money.

Reader bias (4, Insightful)

Norsefire (1494323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410885)

This is going to turn into another one of those discussions where people who read Slashdot and other tech sites forget that they are amongst a minority of computer users and subsequently the consensus that is reached here won't reflect reality at all.

Re:Reader bias (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410943)

Now that's worthy of a +5 Insightful. Of course, since this is Slashdot, it will probably be modded to -1 Troll pretty quickly.

Re:Reader bias (1)

Walter White (1573805) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412725)

Neither a troll nor particularly insightful.

Neither /. readers nor newspaper readers are a uniform cross section of the population. However I suspect there is a significant overlap, so commentary by one about the other is relevant.

In any case, printed newspaper readership is declining at an amazing rate while he Internet grows and this is easily explained by a cause and affect relationship.

It's... (0, Offtopic)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411083)

It's just pineing for the fjords!!

Feh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28411289)

This whole discussion suggests two dimensional thinking. Newspapers???

Let's see... (3, Interesting)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411303)

L.A. times subscription- $156 a year. Big-Size Kindle - $500. Think I'll stick with the dead trees for now. By the time the Kindle has paid for itself, there will be a dozen newer, better, cheaper models.

10 -v- 20,000... (1)

AnswerIs42 (622520) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411345)

I can't see there being such a high density of Kindle's out there where they can replace 20,000/60,000/100,000+ readers. And you get into some areas, you may probably be hard pressed to find ANY kindles. You also have to look at it more than just one way.. many people *shock* do NOT have internet access (especially older people), maybe I don't care as much about global and national news, I see that on the TV.. but I DO want to know what happened locally, (We have two firefighters that were arrested for Arson.. I have only found 1 paragraph on Google News about it.. so there is a huge fail for the internet being a news source), coupons.. I clip out and save hundreds of dollars .. I can't find those same coupons online, advertisement inserts.. I like to know what is on sale at the local grocery store BEFORE I get to the grocery store.

I am sorry, but the mindset of the /. reader only really works for a very small number of people. Death of newspapers? Only when everyone just plain stops reading, period.

The absence of layout (1)

vorlich (972710) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411411)

means that the reader won't be able to fully appreciate the print experience that is The Sun (Soaraway) or the National Enquirer to name but two beacons of modern journalism.

NRC Handelsblad on iRex illiad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28411535)

Actually there's a Dutch newspaper, NRC Handelsblad, that's released on the iRex illiad which has a very nice layout for the newspaper instead of the ugly lists we see on the Kindle.

He outlines the reasons papers are dying (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411553)

Newspapers, by contrast, opine on the importance of the day's news using easy-to-understand design conventions -- important stories appear on front pages, with the most important ones going higher on the page and getting more space and bigger headlines.

But who decides what is most important? The newspapers. The design is a reflection of what the people who run the newspaper deem most important.

A newspaper is only better if you agree with the choices the designer has made in leading you to read certain things. Design is just a tool, and like all tools can be misused to the detriment of the work.

The kindle then may actually be a better delivery system for an average reader because it strips away a layer of bias by flattening design, allowing the user easier flow into stories they actually want to read.

The optimal thing would be a combination of the two approaches where some kind of AI lays out a virtual newspaper on your kindle, using the same design techniques to highlight stories you are most likely interested in.

Newspapers have more to worry about than kindle (2, Insightful)

nausea_malvarma (1544887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411869)

So just because the kindle does a shitty job of delivering news, everyone assumes newspapers still have life in them? Who cares. Most people already get their news online, with or without the kindle. The newspaper business will stick around, for sure, but the age of big newspaper profits are slowly dying. Just a matter of time.

Newspapers: I'm Not Dead Yet! (0, Redundant)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411999)

Internet: You'll be stone dead in a minute.

Thankfully news'paper's don't have DRM (1)

Lime Green Bowler (937876) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412849)

I read the Kindle DRM article the other day and that further cemented my opinion against it. The guy should return his Kindle. The Kindle is all about making money for Jeffy B., not revolutionizing the printed word for people.

http://www.geardiary.com/2009/06/19/kindles-drm-rears-its-ugly-head-and-it-is-ugly/ [geardiary.com]

Dead? (0, Redundant)

spartacus_prime (861925) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414185)

It's not dead, it's pining for the fjords.

Duh! (1)

bigwillystylie (261466) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414503)

Until Netcraft confirms it I won't believe it either.

Advantages of newspapers (1)

jandersen (462034) | more than 5 years ago | (#28418413)

There are many advantages to buying an actual, printed newspaper. There is nothing like an old newspaper to light a fire or for polishing windows, and of course, you can take it with you to the loo and read it or use it when the loo-paper has run out; I challenge anybody to do that with their netbook or iPhone.

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