Pro-newspaper ads are just really effing stupid

Oh, Newspaper Project. I like you so much. Just hearing a name of a group like this that exists gives me hope some days. Then you go and do something like, and suddenly my forehead hurts from palm-slapping:

The project last month released these two ads it said were to run in newspapers nationwide:

creating dubiously reliable websites since 1997

ah gad

Newspaper Project, let’s have a quick little ed meeting here right now. Some issues with the above we need to discuss at once:

1. The people reading the newspaper are ALREADY READING THE NEWSPAPER. The strategy of focusing on holding onto remaining readers until they die is still dominant in the industry, I see. Much like those highly effective “VISIT LONDON TODAY” posters on Tottenham Court Road.

2. This entire ad campaign is fighting a battle that’s been lost for years already. These ads, you will note, are virtuous in their essential message, that newspaper staffs have historically been the most dedicated outlet to producing top-quality, intelligent journalism, and they continue that work far above other media even in these tough times. But the ad tells people to pick up the “most portable, easy-to-use information device anywhere.” By which they mean the physical dead-tree paper itself. Listen, newspapers: let’s get one thing clear, in case someone hasn’t just given you the blunt truth: paper went up against digital formats, and paper lost. Like, years ago.¬†Digital has already gone on a trip to Disney Land, endorsed a high-end brand of watches, starred in a reality program and had a comeback after being disgraced in a high-profiled prostitution scandal. That’s how long this battle has been over.

Focusing on getting people to consume the tactile newspaper product itself only reinforces for people their desire to flee from the dying medium. These ads correlate the work of newspaper staffs with the physical paper itself. If given that choice, newspapers will lose every time.

3. Did the record industry take out ads advocating the value of listening to music in CD form over mp3? Did the postal service put up fliers advocating the thrill of picking up a paper envelope that takes two weeks to travel up the East Coast to discourage people from using e-mail? No, and there’s a reason why they didn’t: it’s a losing fight.

4. It’s not the format that differentiates newspapers from other media; it’s the journalism. It doesn’t matter if I’m picking up a hot New York Times story from the corner deli and reading it at my dining room table or if I wake up first thing in the morning and tap to the story on my NYT iPhone app. The reporting is the same, and one I can read without getting out of bed.

5. Uh, you said it’s the “most portable, easy-to-use information device.” Sorry, but I touched an iPad last week. If I ever get one, it’ll be much easier to read on the beach than a newspaper. Especially when the country’s top newspaper gives out its i-apps for FREE.

You’re telling me I need to read news on a paper to really comprehend the news of the day. Even as a diehard ink-stained wretch, I am sorry to tell you that this is not going to happen. The world moves in digital leaps and lunges now, and, therefore, so does my news (and music, movie and television) consumption.

What you mean to say is that we need to read the work newspaper reporters are doing to really comprehend the news of the day, in whatever platform you come across it. If we’re focused on saving the platform and not the content, we are doomed. Just ask the CD industry.

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