Farewell to print
I love The New York Times. I’ve read it almost every day of my life since I was in high school. For all its recent flaws — the weirdo profiles of the major presidential candidates are the most high-profile — it is still full of the most outstanding reporting. And, on the days that Gail Collins files, it offers up the most penetrating and entertaining opinion.
What’s that? It’s the last print copy of the Times I’ll ever have delivered to my front door. Over the years, I’ve slowly weaned myself off subscriptions to physical newspapers, but it was hard to say no to the Times. The quality was high, the thump of the paper on the sidewalk was a pleasant sound to hear first thing in the morning, I liked the serendipity of walking through a print section, and I felt obligated to pay for the paper at a time when print subscribers were becoming an endangered species. But, after years of wavering, I’m done. The environmental argument alone should have been enough for me, but the simple fact is that I do more and more of my reading on a screen (the only holdouts: fiction and poetry). And plenty of that reading has been from the Times. What finally made me give in to the inevitable was realizing, one barely-dawn morning last week when I was reading the paper at our kitchen table, that I had already read much (most?) of it online. For all the pleasure of holding and print, the Times on paper is just too late. In 2008, today’s paper is yesterday’s news.
So now I’m a freeloader, although you could argue that my personal information, sent to the Times in return for a username and password, may have some value. I rarely, if ever, click on an ad on the Times‘s website. I would gladly pay for the pleasure and convenience of reading the paper online, just as I do for The Wall Street Journal, but I don’t have that option. In this era of advertising-is-the-only-business-model, management at the Times Company has decided that I’ve decided that the value of what it sends to me is zero. I disagree — and I’m not going to pay a premium for the proprietary and little-used Times Reader to make my point.
I’ll miss the paper on paper, and I bet I’ll buy it when I’m on vacation, as a treat, an indulgence. But if even people like me — who adore The New York Times — can no longer justify a print subscription, how can its print version survive, except as a high-priced, scarce product for an increasingly elite audience?
(This originally appeared on the O’Reilly Radar.)