Whither the newspaper?
An article in Editor & Publisher yesterday makes me wonder if in 20 years, the average web site will be more intuitive and comfortable to most people than a newspaper. I can see it now: a high school kid (from the class of 2028) looking at an old, yellowed newspaper from September 11, 2001 and asking Grandma to explain the news format. 'So you're telling me Grandma that this pile of inky paper was called a newspaper? And there's no navigation or search? You had to skip past all this other junk just to get to the comics section? And the articles were already almost a day old by the time you bought it? Geesh, did they have electricity then, or did you have to read it by candlelight too?'
Here are a few excerpts from Washington Post Focus Group Reveals a Shocker: Young People Prefer Newspapers Online:
"Editor Erik Wemple recounted what happened at some focus-group sessions The Washington Post recently conducted with young prospective subscribers in the area, and he speculated that Post news execs are 'haunted' by one particular man.
"'He's a youngish man, a recent law school graduate,' Wemple wrote. 'When presented with a copy of the Post, this fellow fumbled with it, according to sources. He professed he didn't know how it was organized. And the kicker: He expressed wonderment at the spread known as the editorial/op-ed pages.'
"Was this man simply a head-in-the-sand young professional, concerned only with career and social life? Not at all. 'He reads the Post constantly on its Web site,' Wemple reported, ''sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for a few hours,' according to a source.' And therein lies the problem -- for all newspapers, not just the Post. ...
"Wemple reported that Posties learned the paper's non-subscribers were baffled at why they might want so much newspaper. They were concerned for environmental reasons -- all those trees! -- and they were concerned for practical ones, too: The focus groupers said they didn't want a bunch of newspapers "piling up" around the house. And they also liked the convenience. For younger readers, online is the natural, convenient, and efficient way to get news."