Wednesday, October 29, 2008

But What Does Reading a Newspaper Online Mean?

In his/her comment on my last post, Hypnosis wrote:

"I must admit that I read most newspapers online myself. Sign of the times."

Which raises in my head once again the question: What does "reading newspapers online" mean? So I ask Hypnosis and any others who mainly read newspapers online to say: What exactly do you mean by that? What do you read? Not in terms of "how long do you read it," although that is of major concern to advertisers.

By way of exemplifying what I mean, here is the print content of today's Camden Courier-Post, before Gannett cuts back by another 10 percent on staffing. I just "read the newspaper," which means I at least glanced at all the headlines, except for sports which I don't care that much about, and read some of the stories, including ones about the Phils in the World Series, which I do care about.

Front page and national-foreign:

  • 2 stories on World Series postponement with photos
  • Cherokee HS teacher sorry for racial remarks
  • Camden budget would cut 31 jobs from city's payroll
  • Rebels gain ground in Congo
  • Kim Jong-Il back in hospital
  • The weather
  • Lotteries
  • White House prods banks to make loans
  • Syrian border targeted by US to deter al-Qaeda
  • Central Fla. plays key role in election
  • Study says cold germs can linger in home
  • NF briefs: Kristallnacht items found in dump, Kwame Kirkpatrick sentenced, Iraq to reopen talks with US, Pakistan and Afghanistan want talks with Taliban. trial at Guantanamo, Israel elections scheduled, Britain to publish list of banned extremists, 4 charged in killings at Ark. college
  • Director of "Deep Throat" dies

    Editorials on replacing Camden police cars, cameras at high-accident intersections, Ted Stevens; letters to the editor; columns by Michelle Malkin and Susan Estrich

    Local and state:
  • Mantua mother gives birth after traffic accident
  • Informant tells trial of plan to attack Ft. Dix, with trial highlights sidebar
  • Washington Twp. studies options for old library
  • Sale of bonds approved to finance Paulsboro port
  • Briefs: Mt. Holly man accused of luring, groundbreaking for Camden housing, police seek trucker in fatal, S. Jersey man dies in Alaska prison, absentee ballot reminder
  • Bad weather knocks out power, brings snow
  • Dems admit they wrote slush fund memo
  • Corzine set to testify for second stimulus
  • Corzine backs education investments
  • Senate candidates differ in debate
  • Big office building planned for Newark

    Features section:
  • Kids learn to cook Halloween meal, with photos
  • How to throw a cheap Halloween party
  • Nine recipes
  • Martha Stewart has new book
  • "Rocky Horror Show" to haunt Collingswood
  • Dear Abby
  • Tv listings
  • Comics and puzzles and horoscope
  • People items: Novelists' suit, Paul Newman charity aided, LL Cool J quits tour, Russell Brand prank calls

  • Flyers win
  • Sixers open season
  • Briefs: Arizona coach had stroke, A-10 top 2 picked
  • Six field hockey stars
  • Eagles column
  • Phils column
  • League roundups and news
  • Kevin Curtis of Eagles
  • College football advancer
  • Penn State advancer

  • Halloween sales could fall
  • Commission to vote on Tropicana sale
  • Wall St. surges
  • Fed considers reduction in interest rate
  • Briefs: Crude oil prices decline, IMF may need infusion of funds, sharp decline in home prices, Boeing union to vote on labor deal, Gannett to cut 10 pct. of staff
  • Take hardship withdrawal from 401 (k) as last resort
  • Short items: Investors can find bargains, attorney to discuss document issues, AmeriHealth vp named, Hydropower a 10th of energy, 46 million in US lack insurance, How to terminate MySpace account, Action to take for new manager, Web site has data on credit carrs, Exxon to set records, How to save on child care,
    Stock agate

Special Phils in World Series section with 9 stories

And this does not count, of course, any of the advertising. Or about 30 paid death notices.

My point is not that this is better or more convenient or anything when compared with online. It is what it is. This, however, is what you would, or could, read if you read a standard American medium-size city newspaper on a Wednesday. You're not in southern New Jersey, so the local news listed here is probably meaningless to you, but you have your own. And many people do not read sports or food or whatever. And the weather and stock agate and lotteries and the sudoku game are available online from non-news sites. But this is what "reading the newspaper" -- not a huge one in this case, 48 pages -- can mean. What does reading the newspaper online mean? Is it your RSS feeds of -- what? Is it checking links from Drudge? Is it Is it the equivalent of the Courier-Post Online? Looking at the top screen and a half of your local newspaper's home page, or going through it section by section? Looking at the home page of the newspaper where you grew up? Is Time a newspaper site if it posts articles daily? Is Andrew Sullivan?

I have a sense that no one really knows the answers to this, which is part of why newspapers are having the troubles they are having. We aren't going to provide the answer or answers here, but it may be interesting nevertheless.

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