Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Honey, I shrunk the paper.

Recently my local paper, The London Free Press, ran a piece by Dan Brown, their senior online editor, on the paperless world many see fast approaching. Brown took a careful look into the future and reported the demise of "dead-tree media" is not imminent.

Fiona is comfortable with screens.
A month ago I would have said that I couldn't have agreed more, but that was a month ago. Today I'm not so sure.

At a family gathering Boxing Day, I met a young woman busy reading stuff from the screen of her Apple iPad. The iPad had replaced a lot of paper in her life and in the life of her family. When her mother went on vacation, mom took along three books all downloaded to the iPad.

I watched as my young granddaughter, only 15-months-old, played comfortably with the device. Reading a book or a newspaper from a screen will not seem strange to Fiona. She might even think a printed newspaper quaint.

But what really made me think that maybe, just maybe, it was time to re-evaluate my position was the size of The London Free Press the other day. The entire paper was just eight big sheets of paper — two folded sheets to a section.

Years ago I went with a reporter, Kathy Rumleski I believe, to interview a man with an incredible collection of London papers. He showed us his copy of the first issue of The London Free Press Sunday paper. As I recall, it had about 72 pages. At its birth, the fellow told us, the paper assured readers that this young paper, this baby, would grow into a full-fledged Sunday read, filled with features and pictures and lots and lots of good, interesting stuff.

Then, he showed us his most recent Sunday paper. It was half the size of the first paper. Rather than growing, expanding, the Sunday paper had shrunk. It had become a weirdly shaped tabloid presenting readers with a news hole half the size of the first Sunday paper.

Today there is no Sunday Free Press. It's gone. For those readers who cannot get through a day without their news hit, some stories do get posted to the Web.

As I looked at my mighty thin daily, I thought of the fellow with the newspaper collection and I recalled the incredible shrinking Sunday paper. My daily paper is infected. Some days my paper is so small that it seems the paperless newspaper is already here.

Some days the paperless newspaper is almost here.
If you'd like to read an excellent little piece on how magazine sales are faring on the iPad, read How to rescue magazine sales on the iPad posted on the blog Reflections of a Newsosaur.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post! Yes, things are changing -- but I think the problem is the business model hasn't adapted to consumer behaviours. The blame doesn't just rest on the shoulders of the publishers either... advertisers also have failed to adapt.