I don’t believe print is dead.
Far from it. I just believe, however, that most print products are trying to compete with online products. The fundamental problem with most print products is that they are trying to do it all (especially breaking news), instead of concentrating on what they do best — analysis pieces and enterprise stories.
Print can be a great medium when it concentrates on its strengths. The Economist does a fantastic job of this. It is not trying to break news — print can no longer do that — but rather it is trying to take a look back at the news and provide context.
Too many print products want to be a recap of yesterday’s news. Anyone who truly follows the news has already seen and heard the big news. Smart print products don’t try to outdo the Internet and mobile — that’s a losing proposition.
I subscribe to National Geographic, and it works really well as a print product because it is filled with in-depth enterprise and analysis pieces (and much of what I read in NG I don’t regularly come across in other news outlets). It’s the very kind of content that makes perfect sense in print. I don’t like reading long stories on my computer (let alone mobile device), and it’s those pieces that National Geographic does best.
I also subscribe to the Sunday Washington Post. It’s a good product. It’s not great, and it’s not an Economist or National Geographic-class print product.
I enjoy sitting down with the Sunday Post and reading the enterprise and feature stories in it, but it’s a still a product predicated on the other six days of the Post. There just aren’t that many analysis pieces, and it’s not the most serious piece of journalism.
That’s why I have a proposal. The Post (and all dailies) should make a second Sunday paper. Instead of being like the Sunday Post or Times, it should be like the Economist. This is an edition for people who get their news online, Monday-Saturday.
This edition’s mission is to provide analysis and context. It’s not going to be filled with light-weight feature stories. It’s not about the Sunday Comics or all those circulars.
This edition is about giving people a different level of news that they don’t get on a daily basis. It’s a serious edition. In fact, most Sunday editions are rather light and fluffy when it comes to news, and a lot of the stories really aren’t that important.
I firmly believe, however, this new, second Sunday edition is the future of printed products for newspaper organizations. It’s an edition that recognizes that people primarily get news online and know what is going on in the world. This edition is not a recap of old news — it’s providing depth, context and new information that gets missed in a rapid-fire news world.
I do think much like the Economist, this new edition would work better in magazine form. It’s a radical idea, but it’s the kind of idea that makes sense in an online world, and it’s the kind of product that would grow — not shrink — circulation.
One day this will be the future for smart newspapers, and eventually it replace the original Sunday paper. And then eventually it will be the only print product produced by newspapers.
I’m never going to subscribe to a daily newspaper again, but I would be the first to subscribe to a product like this. It’s a product that recognizes the reality on the ground and embraces change.
The Internet is the greatest thing to ever happen to journalism. When more journalists and publishers recognize that, we’ll start making print products that really matter and work for people.