Is the downturn in the fortunes of the newspaper business in America a result of their very design? While many suggest that the quality or nature of the content may be the biggest challenge, others point to the attack on the classified advertising business model. But blogger Mark Cahill suggests it may be the newspaper’s clumsy “user interface” that is to blame.
Specifically, Mark targets the thinness of the page, the dirtiness of the ink, the linearity of the content, the difficulty in following story jumps, and the challenge of dealing with the remains of a well-read newspaper.
To those, like Mark, that would bury actual newsprint in favor of a digital-only world, I would suggest that we not be so quick to walk away from our past. While digital may be the future, newsprint need not be relegated to the dustbin of history.
The traditional newspaper format still has much going for it. I place a high value on serendipity — the notion that the linearity of a newspaper is actually beneficial in that it exposes us to stories we might not otherwise seek out. Furthermore, there are real benefits to disengaging from electronics periodically in favor of a more focused reading experience, free of the distractions of email or instant messaging.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against digital media. Clearly, I’m a practitioner of that fine art myself. I simply believe that we are not experiencing an either-or choice, but rather can build a future that includes both online and offline media.