Why I Still Love Print Media

Posted on June 21, 2014
Filed Under Critical Thinking |

Reading this article about why print journalism still mattered inspired me to give my own take on this issue. Since this is a digital format, let me be short: digital media promotes breadth over depth, is less efficient to consume, and lacks the serendipitous aspects of print..

Now for the longer version. I still get a paper version of the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times every day. I also get paper versions of Economist, Businessweek, FastCompany, Inc, MIT Tech Review, Forbes, Fortune, and a bunch of other less popular periodicals. The question is - why?

My answer has several parts. Let’s start with the most surprising part. Print media is more efficient to consume. In 20 seconds I can flip through a periodical, skim all the headlines, and tag all the stuff I want to read by just bending the ear of that page. Try doing that on the web. You can’t. There are delays and redirects and interstitials. Surveys and ads sometimes pop up, depending on what cycle we are in for the war between ads and ad blockers. Headlines are constantly rewritten and A/B tested for what gets people to click, not what is intellectually the most nourishing and rewarding, so if you don’t like linkbait, you can’t find all the really deep good stuff. Contrast that with the paper WSJ. I can unfold it on a table and quickly read multiple articles. No clicks, no annoyances, no loss of focus, no comments or video or other crap.

The second reason is serendipity. Sometimes I find great stuff in print. The best stuff is that unique article that you didn’t even know you would like but for some strange reason it caught your eye. You know what you find online? 1) The popular stuff that everyone is reading. 2) Stuff that is just like the other stuff you are reading. That’s fine. I’m not criticizing popular articles. But I am one of those people who likes to read certain topics that maybe aren’t that popular. Sometimes that small 2 paragraph article in a small box, deep within a paper periodical - the article that would never be popular online, and thus difficult to ever find, catches my eye. Some of those articles have taken me on interesting intellectual tangents I may never have found otherwise.

The final reason is, sometimes you need depth. A headline can only tell you so much. In a world where we have to be continually stimulated, not many people can focus long enough to read a 4-5 page magazine article. But some concepts just can’t be explained in 2 paragraphs. Many of the good print articles are online, but judging from my discussions with my own social circle, if you are the kind of person getting all of your news online, you probably aren’t the kind of person who takes the time to read the whole thing. Training your mind to focus, take a step back, and consume some depth has advantages.

So, economics aside, I believe print journalism still has a place. It’s more efficient, more in depth, and more serendipitous. If you feel like your news consumption is shallow, try going old school for a while. You may really like it.

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