Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Obama Elected" newspapers sell out -- the exception that makes the rule?

An interesting sidebar story related the American presidential election a week ago has been the "run" on newspapers featuring the front page announcing the historic outcome. Long lines to buy papers, reprints, and special newspaper editions, have all been well documented. (For an example, see The LA Times, "Extra! Extra! Barack Obama's election win sends newspaper sales soaring".)

While this blog's primary focus is printing in the home and office, from time to time we can't help exploring the overall future of the printed page, including that venerable societal institution, the newspaper.

And while the biggest sales day for papers in a long time is an interesting, and even poignant story, it may also provide insight in why the printed page still satisfies certain "fundamental user needs", in marketing parlance. Snippets from the news reporting on the sales surge quotes buyers as seeking something that documents the election in a permanent, "official" format. From the Times piece:

"I think there is an authority and finality, a sort of last word that comes from the printed edition of the newspaper," said Steve Hills, president and general manager of Washington Post Media.

At the same time, with the majority of today's current news, which is much more fleeting and ever-changing, is probably more appropriately delivered in electronic form. To use another example from late 2008, who needs/wants an ink-and-paper stock table from any given closing market day? (And that's even assuming the markets actually close!)


Greg Walters said...


Great minds...

I had a conversation with my father last week about newspapers...

I think it's generational.


dr droock said...

Maybe the problem is the definition of "news". It was only in the 1840's and after that "getting there first with the news" became the mission of papers in the US.

Before that they were more "viewspapers." No doubt, folks still want paper for some things, but no longer to get "news."

One model that is going round is the web for daily news updates, and a weekly publication for contextualizing, analysis and opinions.

The value of paper in the office might turn out to be the same as a newspaper - to separate out some sliver of information from the world of "news which is much more fleeting and ever-changing."

Print brings information into the physical world, where it can be appreciated, thought about, and enter real world conversation.

Jim Lyons said...

Thanks so much for the comments, Greg and Dr Droock.

Mike Masnick has a good post over at Techdirt, too.