My friend Larry Smith is one of the most thought-provoking people I know. We’re both members of a group called the Internet OldTimers and in a recent exchange there, he talked about being a subscriber to the print edition of The New York Times. I’m also a subscriber to the dead-tree version of the Times and Larry set me to thinking about why I still subscribe to the newspaper. What do I like about the print version and how is it different than online?
- Editorial judgments are more clearly manifested. Placement means something as does inclusion. Online, placement is quickly ignored and all stories look the same. And with unlimited space, there’s no judgment expressed via inclusion.
- Layout matters. A glance at a section front page tells me a lot in one glimpse and the reading of 50 words. That’s much less the case online where layout is so blindingly similar from story to story, site to site.
- Sections matter. As I move from section to section, my mindset clearly changes. Online is a much more random journey with few boundaries and as a result, either the mindsets don’t change very much and/or they’re jarring when they do.
- The delivery mechanism is well-suited to the use of the product. Paper is wonderfully portable. I read it continuously from the bed to the bathroom to the kitchen to the train. Online is bumpy and with few exceptions I don’t have a seamless experience across devices (although there are some interesting initiatives in this regard and I have high hopes for it once we finally bury this notion of the “three screen experience” to be replaced by the “integrated any-screen experience”).