Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bye, Bye Miss American Newspaper?

Dear Olympian,

Please don't go away -- just get a business model, and fast!

I just wrote a lengthy comment to a post by Marjorie at Interior Designs and decided to turn it into a post of my own, since it's a subject that is near and dear to my heart and one that I've been thinking about a lot lately.

I used to proudly point out that Americans read three times as many newspapers as the French. I'm not sure this statistic is up to date, and even rather doubt it considering the number of newspapers that are on the verge of extinction in the USA.

And apparently, as Marjorie points out, many Americans don't really care.

Well, I care deeply about the local paper that I grew up with, but also feel that the US newspaper industry has been ridiculously dinosaur-like and, well, out and out stupid (dinosaurs did have small brains, right?) in their harnessing of the Internet.

For example, The Olympian, which is a long-standing and high-quality daily, moved years ago -- like so many other papers -- from a "key news" Internet approach to an "all the news" site.

I remember thinking at the time that this was not a good idea. Sure, I was happy to be able to read everything from local sports news to obituaries from my European home, but somehow it didn't feel right. And it doesn't seem to be working out, either.

So, now, I've been reading The Olympian's content online for free for years and all that time I would have been perfectly willing to pay to do so. I'm sure many Olympians living outside of the area would have happily done the same, and those online subscriptions would have added up to a tidy sum by now.

What were they thinking? Who is going to pay for something that they can get for free?

And what a financial boon it would have been to tap into all of the potential Olympian readers all over the world -- from the get-go.


Ken Broadhurst said...

Betty, where did you get that statistic about American newspaper readers? Living in Paris, I always thought French people read a lot more newspapers than Americans. Maybe that's just because I always saw so many people in cafés and on the métro reading a paper.

Betty Carlson said...

Ken I can't tell you the source. I read it a long time ago -- but I'm sure I got it right. It said that Americans read three times as many newspapers as the French and the British read ten times as many! Of course I can't tell you what the exact index of measurement was -- papers bought, subscriptions, or simply how much they are read...

It didn't surprise me at all at the time. French papers have long been quite expensive compared to American ones, and home delivery is not as developed. I have known few French people who subscribed to a newspaper, whereas at home in Olympia, it seems like everyone I know "takes" The Olympian -- which isn't enough for it to be out of financial trouble, apparently.

I do know that the local papers around here have not strewn their content all over the Internet for free, so there are still some good reasons to buy them. However, they are definitely feeling the squeeze of the economic crunch, like everybody else.

Ken Broadhurst said...

It seems the San Francisco Chronicle is one of the papers likely to close down, or at least stop putting out a print edition, soon. Along with many others.

It's true that French papers, including the International Herald Tribune, are expensive by American standards. I never read a paper any more because I don't want to start the car to go buy one (even though the boulangère also delivers the local Nouvelle République if you want to pay for it). I do all my reading on the Internet now, and I'm sure many others do the same.

Betty Carlson said...

Yes, Ken, I think my father told me that the Chronicle was closing down, leaving San Francisco without a newspaper. That seems unimaginable. I remember when there was also the Examiner, as I'm sure you do too.

Hey, the only French newspaper I ever subscribed to was La Nouvelle République -- mainly because they had early morning home delivery. That was before Internet days. I miss that really local news, though. I think I would take the plunge and subscribe to one of the local papers if I could have home delivery in the morning.