…Are, indeed, greatly exaggerated. There is a widespread epidemic that has lasted almost two decades now that print newspapers are doomed to be a thing of the past and an ignominious death. Online, if we are to believe doomsayers and bottom-feeders, is the future. And the future is now!
But, no. It is not. A new study by Neil Thurman indicates that print is not giving up to online yet. Thurman’s research shows that a massive 88.5 percent of the total time U.K. readers devote to 11 national newspaper brands—The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times, Mail, Mirror, and others—is on the print edition. “Less than 7.5 percent of reader time goes to mobile and a mere 4 percent to PCs.”
This is not one of the famous British eccentricities. “Time spent reading print newspapers doesn’t vary much country-to-country, and neither do online dwell times,” Thurman says, drawing on the findings from one-year worth of data.
Thurman’s work adds to the evidence that newspapers, despite bleeding circulation, are still healthy ventures. It follows research by University of Texas scholar H. Iris Chyi, who criticized the newspaper industry for pouring money and resources on online versions when real profits remain in the fading print product. Moreover, there is a strange coincidence in the share of readers dwelling on print and the revenues newspaper from it: 88 percent, “making time spent reading and money collected a near percentage match,” Politico reports.
If there is one flaw in this logic, it would be that print and online editions are becoming separate products, as similar and as different, if you want, as the same film seen in a movie theater or on a streaming platform. It’s not then apples and oranges, but almost. And yes, while there are some folks out there doing hard work to make online editions finally profitable by way of subscription—with mixed results so far—there are surely profiteers who are looking to make a quick buck, with unsurprisingly shoddy work.
We contend that online newspapers will never be a match to print as long as they are supported on current electronic devices. They are not apt for reading. Without an electronic paper, as smooth and as thin as the real paper that you can fold and carry under your arm, they will be the poor relations of their big cousins, the print newspapers. In the meantime, this writer will continue enjoying his coffee with his newspaper every morning. Et après moi, le déluge.