NEWSPAPERS ARE CONTINUING their long decline into obsoletion. “Newspaper reporter” was recently named the worst job in terms of future prospects. Unlike other media, such as music, for example, papers can’t rely on live performances to bring in revenue.
Unless they take up Disney’s retro-chic “Newsies” model.
Print, however, doesn’t need to die. Cable isn’t producing much in the way of in-depth reporting, and print certainly has the advantage of not having anonymous online commenters giving their unedited and uneducated opinion. Here are my suggestions for improving the print product.
1. Swap Broadsheets for iPad-Sized Publications
Broadsheet papers like The New York Times were great in a slower era, but now they’re just awkward and bulky. Having to fold and unfold multiple times is as annoying as an online slideshow. The only people who ever need a large paper are spies and perverts wanting to conceal themselves or their tender bits from scrutiny.
Spies and perverts and pretty much the core demographic left for broadsheets.
Papers should be the size of an iPad for easy carrying. If you argue this means less news, then consider…
2. Just Put a QR Code for the AP and Wire Stories
National news will be online long before it’s in print. So let’s stop having local newspapers try to be the leading edge when we know they use the AP or Reuters. Provide the titles and a thumbnail summary and a link or QR code so people on cellphones can just follow national stories with little local impact. Space can then be put toward local stories that aren’t being covered in Google News.
3. Give A QR Code for us to Share Online for Free
While we’re at it, if we bought the paper, let us share it with our friends. It might just be a picture of us winning the annual chili dog eating contest, but damn it, it’s a proud moment.
Colon ruptures are temporary, local media glory is forever!
Sending the article to a few Facebook friends around the country won’t break the paywall model.
4. Cover Stories That Make Us as Readers Look Smarter
Why do people buy iPads when there are cheaper devices that work as well? Because it makes them look cool, smart and informed, even if they just use it for Angry Birds.
Don’t lie, this is on your iPad.
Rather than give us some sensationalist crap, make us look smarter, more cultured and sexier for having read your paper. Even if we are just reading the comics or struggling with sudoku, we at least look smart while puzzling over the pun in today’s Garfield strip.
5. Quit Cutting Up Articles to Multiple Pages
If a story is important enough to be on the front page, I shouldn’t have to turn to A15 to find the rest, ever. This is news, not Where’s Waldo.
6. Allow Real Readers To Ask Questions
Know why we consumers hate media? Because media is less Woodward and Bernstein and more stenographer for those in power. Rather than bow to those in power, represent the people and give them a stake in the questions asked. Readers of usually apolitical Parents magazine did a far better job than professional beltway press during an interview with Joe Biden.
Dear Mr. Biden, how come Obama is such a pussy?
(Not an actual question from Parents readers.)
7. Classified Ads for Companies That Will Actually Hire Or At Least Respond
Newspapers cry because Craigslist takes away their classified ads. But you know what? Craigslist sucks balls. By putting up a price, you already scare away cheap ass scammers. If newspapers can require employers posting jobs to reply to every applicant, even with a form rejection letter, it will go a long way to making the job seeker drop the scam filled Craigslist ads and buy a paper when looking for work.
Resume responses in three business days or less, or the job is yours!
Hell, given the career prospects of journalists, this is as much self-interest as public interest.
8. Print on toilet paper instead of newsprint
If all else fails, newspapers can print on toilet tissue grade paper. I’d much rather be able to go down and buy a $1.50 Sunday paper from the box in front of my apartment than having to slog over to the grocery store, buy beer and come back and realize I’ve forgotten the toilet paper I came to get.
Oof, those chili dogs form entry #3 are going to require the sports and local section.
Follow Philip on Twitter @Philip_R_Moon