I work in newspapers, an industry in which print revenues remain flat while online revenues grow. But is that really the case? The other day I picked up two successive print copies of the Metro, a weekly freebie, at a coffee shop in Silicon Valley. Both issues were fat, fat, fat with ads. The August 1 edition had 116 tabloid pages. The July 25th edition was 100 pages thick. What do these free papers have that newspapers don’t?
Well, they don’t bother with news. Their editorial formula is a dramatic cover story plus some fluffy copy inside — restaurant and movie reviews and lots of stuff on skin care — and page upon page of sex ads. (I just looked at the words, of course.)
So maybe print isn’t hurting. Rather, it’s the content, stupid. Any whiff of public affairs — not involving love triangles or celebrities — may be BORING! Readers, it seems, would prefer to peruse browse product offerings — be they animal, vegetable, mineral or digital — than furrow their brows over some thorny issue.
I’ve lamented about this before, but I’m often no different in my own behavior. Last night, for instance, I snagged the Sony catalog out of the mail and drooled over electronics. And my whole family has been scanning the Ikea catalog for new shelves and dressers.
Hezbollah? Iraq? Oh, well. Maybe that new paint will provide the satisfaction that I’ve been missing.