I read the newspaper daily, but I don’t pay for it. In the battle of bits vs. atoms, the newspaper is losing.
Our subscription to one of the two local daily newspapers expired a few years ago and we didn’t renew. Sometimes we buy the Sunday paper, but more for the coupons and advertisements than the content.
What happened? While you were wondering where the stock market went after the year 2000, a battle began to rage between bits and atoms.
Yes, at a base level the bits of the internet are what make up the bytes in a web page.
Yes, your daily newspaper is made up of atoms. The war being waged among traditional media starts at the “bit vs. atom” level. Bits are cheap and get cheaper the more you use. Atoms, such as what constitutes the physical attributes of a newspaper, cost money and won’t be getting cheaper.
Bits transfer information at nearly the speed of light (often much less). Atoms in the newspaper get transferred at a mind numbingly slow speed that seems to require a calendar to time.
From the time a newspaper article or column is edited and ready for print, many hours will go by before the printing and distribution is complete. By then what you’ve read is already old news.
Other attributes of the atoms in a newspaper point to a losing effort in the battle with electronic bits. Newspapers stack up. Bits just disappear, or get shoved into massive hard disks on our PCs and Macs, searchable but forgotten.
Some newspapers are changing how they conduct the business of being a newspaper and have online newspapers with watered down versions of the news and columns and features found in the physical newspaper. Publishers want you to buy the paper in the newspaper.
Why? It’s an economic model that dates back a few hundred years and is slow to change. An advertisement in a newspaper costs far more than an advertisement on a web site and often reaches far fewer people. Do the math. Print ads cost more but reach fewer people that web site ads.
How long can a business model like that last?
Fortunately, newspapers won’t die off completely, though we’ll see advancements of their news gathering, news disseminating business as they adapt to a growing internet population that wants to receive the news faster and at lower cost.
The dinosaur newspaper isn’t dead or dying. It’s changing. Slowly. So slowly we can see it.