Newspapers in paperless world

Photo by Tyler Meuter

This year, consistent with the last several ones, there has been increased discussion about the future of the Technique as a print media. Students, graduate and undergraduate alike, are questioning why we print 7,000 physical copies on a weekly basis in an increasingly paperless world.

Lively discussion on the future of print media has not been limited to Tech’s campus. In February, The New York Times Company announced a newsroom-wide strategy review to identify areas for cost reductions following a earning review reporting flat revenue as its print business continued to decline.

In a note to the newsroom, Dean Baquet, The New York Times’ executive editor, wrote, “We need to develop a strategic plan for what The New York Times should be and determine how to apply our timeless values to a new age … Although our digital revenue is growing strongly, we continue to feel the impact of declines in parts of our print business.”

Baquet also previously admitted, according a Times-Picayune report, that “no one thinks there will be a lot of print around in 40 years.”

Overall newspaper circulation has fallen nationally over the course of the last 10 years from just under 55 million copies nationally in 2004 to about 42 million copies in 2014, according to the Newspaper Association of America, and newspapers globally seek to adapt themselves for a digital future, striving to compete with digital first companies such as Vox, Gawker and BuzzFeed.

The decision to keep the Technique in its physical form is not an arbitrary one. Our organization’s financial success and sustainability is highly dependant on the existence of physical copies.

Print advertising is remains extremely lucrative. In the 2015 fiscal year, we generated $60,620.57 in revenue from print ad sales alone — money that goes on to pay for the salary and benefits of our professional staff positions, stipends for assistant editors and staff and printing costs that exceed the printing budget that the Student Government Association gives us (which ran out in early October this school year due to budget cuts).

In the same fiscal year, we only generated $1,248 in online revenue, strongly contrasting the amount we earned through print media.

Additionally, the Technique’s core readership still remains in print, with our weekly pickup rate exceeding the number of individual online articles views and unique visitors, even though our site is available beyond our campus boundaries — paralleling many papers’ readership globally.

According to Ofcom’s News Consumption in the U.K. Report, digital platforms by adults in the United Kingdom did not surpass newspapers until as recently as 2014.

These decisions are easy ones to make. It makes sense that choose print while our readership is still mostly there. It is a good financial judgement to stick with where the money is coming from. Yet, when that rationalization not longer holds true, should newspapers like the Technique continue their physical forms?

I’m a fervent believer in print newspapers. Reading the physical papers is a vital tactile experience — the feeling of flipping thin pages, black ink staining your fingers. The feeling of disposable newsprint is almost ephemeral, the medium emulating the constant change
of news.

A full newspaper is like an music album of stories. Similar to how you may find more songs on a CD or vinyl you enjoy rather than just listening to a released single, reading a paper in its physical form allows for finding stories that may not draw your attention on its own.

It is hard to ignore a piece when it’s physically in front of you versus going through the extra effort of clicking. With readers demonstrating shorter  attention spans, it remains prudent to catch their attention when you still have it.

There is a certain gravitas involved with printed media; the physical version gives it ethos. With the availability of WordPress, Tumblr, Medium and even the BuzzFeed community posts, everyone has a forum to share their ideas, findings and opinions. Printed media has historically and continuously remains vetted content.

Prolonged reading on a digital screen often leads to headaches or makes eyes tired, and mobile device developers, such as the Amazon Kindle, try to better emulate the easier paper reading experience.

Reading physical copies also helps information retention. In their academic study “Medium Matters: Newsreaders’ Recall and Engagement With Online and Print Newspapers,” Arthur D. Santana, Randall Livingstone and Yoon Cho of the University of Oregon found that print readers were able to “remember significantly more news stories than online news readers” and “remembered significantly more topics than online newsreaders.”

While physical newspapers can sometimes be unwieldy and the “mansplaying” of the print media world, the experience of reading one is incomparable and retains many perks beyond the oft-touted monetary reasons.

As I conclude my tenure of Editor-in-Chief of the Technique, I hope to that future Editorial Boards will continue the grand tradition of printed newspapers, and I hope that somewhere years in the future, I can return to Tech and pick up a printed copy of the Technique.