Are newspapers dead?

Scoble responds to the question, “Are newspapers dead?” What he is really addressing is the delivery mechanism — newsprint vs. online.

I don’t think we’ll see the death of newsprint any time soon. The format is too convenient when compared to the current alternatives. I tried our local paper’s online version a few years ago. The newspaper was published in a PDF format and it was laid out just like the printed version. I liked the hyperlinks and the ability to access additional photos. However, I did not abandon my printed copy.

There are two major reasons that I did not care for the digital format:

  • Too much scrolling
  • Not easily portable

Laying out the online version like the printed version just doesn’t work. You can’t fit an entire page of newsprint onto a computer screen in a reasonably sized font. Too make the font readable, the user has to scroll the page a lot. It was especially annoying because the layout used the traditional multi-column format.

This problem is easily resolved, and my local paper now has an online format that is more navigable than the original attempt. However, even with a format suitable to online consumption, I still don’t think that I would switch from the printed copy.

The portability issue is not so easily resolved. Yes, slate/tablet PCs are very portable. They are the best choice for reading digital content. But I’m not willing to take a tablet PC all the places that I take my newspaper. When I’m reclining in the jacuzzi, I can read the newspaper. The printed newspaper can be read while working out on an aerobic machine at the gym. I can read the printed newpaper in the sauna. I’d be very nervous about using a tablet PC in any of these locations.

Another concern which limits portability is loss. I can take a newspaper to the beach or the pool. When I want to take a dip, I don’t have to worry if somebody is going to take off with the printed copy of the newspaper. I would have to worry about that if I was using a computer to read the content.

Weight is also an issue. If you saw me reading the newpaper, you would see that I am often in a reclining position, and I hold the newspaper in the air as I read it. The newspaper weighs a few ounces. A computer held in this position is going to cause a lot more stress on my body.

I don’t know if heat is an issue. I have used laptops that become uncomfortable when actually used on your lap, due to the heat. Most PC manufacturers have official warnings about this. Do tablet PCs have this problem? The newsprint never becomes too warm.

And what if you own a wood burning stove or fireplace? Can you start a fire with your computer? I wouldn’t recommend it. đŸ™‚

Finally, I think about electronic books. There have been a number of products that were supposed to replace printed books. None of them have taken off. I suspect my reasons were considerable factors in the success (or lack thereof) of these devices.

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