At my house, the day still begins this way: My husband and I stumble downstairs, half awake, and start the coffee. Then one of us tucks the five-pound dog with the weak bladder under an arm, and goes out to the front door to retrieve the three morning papers. Yes, I said three. Two nationally distributed newspapers, and one for the city we live near. Actually, we subscribe to a total of five newspapers, because we also get the regional afternoon paper, and a weekly local paper.
But back to our morning. My husband and I will now spend the next hour socializing, imbibing hot beverages, and discussing the day’s news, which lately has included a great deal of talk about the shaky condition of the papers themselves. And you don’t even need to open a paper to see how bad things are. My husband came through the door the other morning, the city newspaper pinched disdainfully between thumb and forefinger, shaking it to demonstrate its lack of heft. “Why do we even bother?” he groaned. I knew exactly what he was talking about. Some of these papers you can practically see through.
Well, why do we still bother? Some of it is surely habit. When you have started your day with an assortment of newspapers your whole life, it’s hard to think of giving them up. And yet, there’s this growing feeling of, Do I want to be the last poor schmuck paying dearly for all these subscriptions when the entire rest of the world is reading the same news online for free, and with hyperlinks and real-time comments?
Okay, I admit it, the new technology is better, but I would miss that feeling of wide grazing over broad pages. When I’m online, my reading tends to be much more focused and directed, what Jakob Nielsen and others have called “information foraging.” If a headline doesn’t immediately grab me, I don’t click on it. Whereas with a newspaper, I’m always scanning a few paragraphs of “uninteresting” news — something I’d never voluntarily select — and often I find, Why, I am interested in this!