Saturday, June 19, 2010

NYT Columnist David Pogue Declares: "I Could Not Name You An Under-25 Year Old Who Subscribes To A Print Newspaper."

Is David Pogue right? Has an entire generation abandoned print completely, and forever?

The NYT's popular personal-technology columnist offered that deeply discouraging assessment on Friday at Book Summit 2010 in Toronto -- at least according to several Twitter accounts of his keynote speech on "Reading: The Next Chapter."

Of course, we don't dispute the obvious facts. Print newspaper circulation is down everywhere, in some cases dramatically. In 2009, the NYT itself felt a 5 percent drop in Sunday circulation, with a near 9 percent slide on weekdays.

Maybe we at The NYTPicker have a skewed view of things, dependent as we are on the NYT print edition for our persnickety purposes. Plus, as most people have probably figured out by now, we're still in our early teens.

But really, does anyone know an actual college kid who still springs for the two-buck-a-day print habit? Do any newly-employed young Millenials of your acquaintance opt for the Weekender package and its inky pleasures? Or has an entire generation -- the one that will determine, finally, the permanent fate of print -- turned its back on the medium, never to return?

Sadly, we're pretty sure David Pogue got this one right.

35 comments:

lesdmd said...

At Kent State University Pogue's observation is sadly believable. In a show of hands survey, during a course given by the "Journalism and Mass Communication" department, two students (of over one hundred) admitted to reading a newspaper daily. Just outside the lecture hall sat a kiosk offering free for-the-taking copies of the New York Times. Magazines did not fare any better in the survey. Young people, who even bother to learn what is going on, rely on the Internet and Television. Those of us who can't imagine a day without a newspaper, read it and weep.

Anonymous said...

That's because they don't have any money.

// I'm 18 and I read the Globe and Mail daily, but only because my parents subscribe.

Rell said...

The fact of the matter is that life as we know it is changing. I'm in the under 30 crowd and no I don't know any young people who read print newspapers, but why should they? In a digital world where information travels at the speed of light waiting to read your news in the morning paper means that you are reading old news. Noone wants to be left behind. Also who needs to lug newspapers around when everyone carries some sort of mobile device/smart phone. I can look over several different articles from several newspapers on my iPhone in the time it takes you to go downstairs and pick up your paper from your
driveway.
Long story short, print newspapers and books will go the way of the dinosaurs really quickly

Anonymous said...

*raises hand*
I'm 21 and subscribe to four dailies: NYT, WSJ, LAT, FT.

Fred said...

At UNC in Chapel Hill large numbers of students read the Daily Tar Heel, partly because it is a good paper--as campus papers go--and also because the campus (and surrounding parts of town) are covered with boxes. The paper is also free.
I see lots of students doing the crossword puzzle--including a senior last semester who always worked it during philosophy class. (Now he's off to NYU Law School, having turned down Harvard.)

zachary said...

im 24, but subscribed to the nyt at age 21... seven days a week. pogue's comment is annoying, but probably true though. im one of two people i know with an active subscription (and the other follows the la times, which is not such a hot paper.)

Lauren Michell Rabaino said...

I am 21 (almost). I have never willingly paid money for a printed newspaper.

Sure, I've stopped at the newsstand in high school a few times to grab one for my mom when she'd call me on my drive home from school (because our family didn't subscribe to the print paper in our hometown).

But never, ever, once have I paid my own money to read news -- and certainly not in a print newspaper. I've read news online since middle school. I graduated from college with a bachelor's in journalism in December and still got away with never paying a dime (or having the desire to even pay) to consume news content in print. It's just not something our generation does.

But don't get me wrong; I subscribe to dozens of news feeds in my Google reader and probably consume 20-40 articles/posts every two hours (both news and niche-based blogs). I paid $3 for the feed reader app I use on my iphone, and that was worth every dime. Hell, I'd pay a monthly fee for that app just because of the clean consumption experience. That's the closest I've come to paying money for news.

Anonymous said...

My first year of college, I subscribed to the Sunday paper. But.. that was just because I like looking through the weekly store ads. I'm 23 now.. no subscription currently. I just get my news online or on TV.

Anonymous said...

Newspapers have lost the trust and confidence of young people. That's why no one will pay for them. When I went to university in the early 1980's, freshmen (and women) who prided themselves on being informed and responsible, worshipped the New York Times like commandments handed down from Mount Sinai. We considered it good value because essential to keeping us in touch with the wider world. And of course, in the pre-internet era, paper broadsheets had a monopoly on disseminating news. That meant they had Authority. Ergo, we actually believed most of what we read ! Fast forward to 2010. Having worked as a journalist for a major daily paper, I learned first hand how the "news" is manufactured: the nefarious role of editors in selecting stories (and spiking others), framing / spinning coverage to please shareholders, advertisers, and government, censoring negative opinions, etc. It left me deeply sceptical of all journalism, especially that of the pious flagships like the NY Times and Washington Post. Thankfully, today's young people are more savvy than my generation was 30 years ago. They know that the mass media is largely propaganda and cannot be trusted or taken at face value. The truth is to be found elsewhere. That's why they don't pay for "paper" news. They may read some New York Times stories (probably online), but then they look for the critique, the "deconstruction" (dreaded 1970's catchphrase), the context and backstory in other blogs and websites. After filtering the discussion, they come up with a provisional version of the "truth." As such, young people are much better informed than their pre-internet parents were. And more cheaply.

Rex Hammock said...

I've been on several university campuses this year and have discovered what @Fred said - The students snap up the student published print daily newspapers, even if the content is available online.

Seeing this makes me wonder if the problem is not the newspaper print format, but rather a problem with the daily newspaper business mode.

College papers = ad-supported, low distribution costs, free (or, more precisely) paid-for-as-hidden-cost in tuition. It's going to be hard for daily mass newspapers to match that business model, but there are weekly "alt" papers and niche tabloids that are getting there.

Another issue is probably the perception by students that the content found in most daily newspapers is irrelevant to their lives. Perhaps college students today feel the way college students have always felt: the only news worth knowing about is what's happening in the campus bubble.

Heck, I couldn't afford a newspaper subscription when I was under 25, so I read the one in the library and then went to work for a newspaper so I could read them for free.

P.S. I'm over 25x2 years old, and I do all my newspaper reading online, even though I pay to access content on at least two such websites.

Anonymous said...

Thirty five years ago, I was 21 and I never bought newspapers either. Nor did my college mates. Nor did my parents. The only time ink rubbed off on my hands was when I was sitting somewhere, waiting for something or someone.
Then I got a job. I had to stay informed, and, bingo!

Ain't sayin' print isn't in trouble. But it will have a niche. And it will make money.

Anonymous said...

Re: 'Noone wants to be left behind.'

Except for a smallish niche, this generation has already been 'left behind.' Witness how distressingly ignorant and uninformed the masses of young people are. It is no accident that, for example, so many young people do not even know who the vice president is or which countries adjoin or support or oppose the U.S. "Jaywalking" is no aberration. It includes teachers and other professionals as well as so-called college student.

When a sizable proportion of certain significant population group readily concedes that it obtains most of its information from "The Comedy Channel," there can be no doubt where we are headed.

Anonymous said...

ha. 15 years ago when I was under 25, I could barely name an under 25-yo who subscribed to a print newspaper. Porn, yes. Cable, sure. Beer of the month club, a few. Newspapers? not so much. Some would read them, but not subscribe.

Ironically, they're better informed now, if only from the Daily Show.

Jeff R said...

you should really read or listen to the recent article on Newspapers companies and what they are doing to make money these days. Also touches on how they are still making money just not as much as they used to.

The Article in in the economist. Take a Gander!

Anonymous said...

Print does not have a search function.

Florent said...

As for France, I can assure you that no one (under 30) in my circle of friends pays for newspapers either.

We have three different "free" newspapers available daily (20 Minutes, Metro and Lyon Plus), and a lot of people read them (or just take them for crosswords - hey, class gets boring). The only people I could think of that pays for press are my parents, and it's only for two or three bi-monthly magazines.

I think the difference in quality between "free" and paid press isn't felt like high enough to justify the price. And both are filled with ads anyway.

Anonymous said...

The reason for this is simple. The average under-25 is thinking three things:

1. "Where am I going to find a job?"
2. "IF I find one, and if it pays enough to live on, how long can I hang onto it before I'm eliminated in a corporate restructuring?"
3. "Am I going to get laid tonight?"

The people running the Times are thinking:

1. "I have tenure."
2. "Which of the underlings who have been trying to convince me I need to start doing things differently can I eliminate in a restructuring to send the right message to the others, that they need to stop challenging me and be thankful I let them keep their jobs?"
3. "How can I write yet another column about how sex is dirty and words that have any even vaguely sexual connotation must never appear in the Times?"
4. "If I can get even more content from freelancers or just for free, can I get a raise to my already obscenely large pay/benefits package? Alternately, could I just cut some of the other workers' benefits and pay?"

The "product" that is the New York Times is uninteresting. That is why it sits in stacks in kiosks in universities. The young people, who don't have a stake in looking the other way as the planet goes to hell, see no reason to go along with the company line when the company isn't offering any jobs.

ScottW said...

As one who works for the local paper here (in production) I can testify to the serious down-turn in subscription rates and interest by young people.

Many have made good points here concerning the NYT or WP but this applies to more newspapers than just these two.

If newspapers are to survive (not in any mode they were used to obviously) they must, and I mean MUST, turn their attention to the younger generation and find out what it is that they are really interested in. Churn out articles that cater to them. Their own section if need be and more than once a week.

But with the status quo being what it is with the old guard that controls the content of the papers these days, it will not happen because of the following things I quoted from others here:

"Newspapers have lost the trust and confidence of young people." (True)

"Having worked as a journalist for a major daily paper, I learned first hand how the "news" is manufactured" (True)

"I have tenure" (True)

These and the simple fact that the younger crowd sees no benefit from a newspaper. Especially in print form. If they want news, they'll go online for it with their smart phones or netbooks. If they want it. If it's interesting enough for them.

Think back to your younger days for a moment: Did you trust your older generation? Did you not think they were running this planet into the ground? Didn't you shrug off most of what they tried to tell you because you felt they were idiots?

Don't blame the younger generation nor label them dumb. They know more than you give them credit and the mirror is waiting on you to point that finger now.

I'm 54 and don't trust half of what I hear or read anymore myself. News is manufactured or edited to fit a purpose. Not to report facts anymore.

Erik Gable said...

Have people under 25 EVER subscribed to newspapers in great numbers? Or has it always been something that increases along with age and ties to community?

Anonymous said...

Rell asks the right question: Why should they subscribe?

Newspapers are old news, boring, and with limited functionality. I can't share it, comment on it, remix it, link to it. I can't read past related stories from that paper, much less from the entire world.

ryan said...

I'm 22 years old and I subscribe to the New York Times. I don't make a lot but I don't think I could find a better use for $29.60 a month for mon-fri.

JimmyTheGhost said...

I'm 25 and make enough money to subscribe to any newspaper and don't. I feel bad for being responsible for the decline of print media, but I just don't have any interest. I probably spend two hours a day reading news on the internet. I can't wait to get an iPad so I don't have to read it on my laptop. I do subscribe to numerous magazines, but would prefer to read them (and pay for them) in electric form. That's just how I roll.

Anonymous said...

The intelligent under-25 demographic is easily distracted by brain massaging media; pudding. In theory this could be turned around over night provided trust in news is regained by quality news that does not treat youth as goners. A tall order, yes, just what is holding back such news is unclear.

BillieJane said...

Times change, as do people's habits.
There is little special about newspapers as sources of information, or magazines for that matter. They are just several of many avenues with which one can get information (TV, Internet, radio, cell phones, short wave, Citizen's band, newspapers, magazines, teletype, film, etc.). The fact that one demographic doesn't use one medium (e.g. newspapers) all that much does NOT mean that that is a "lost" generation. There are other avenues to getting information, and the college crowd has found it with the Internet and WWW. Indeed, I know of only a few people under age 40 that read the newspaper. I'm over 40 and I have all but abandoned newspapers for the internet and world wide web. Why: greater choice, easier ability to change, ability to search, able to write back via email and webmail, etc. Yes, I do skim the LA Times and NYT, but their online editions.

Anonymous said...

This is *not* sad. It is merely a reflection of how technology is changing media.

Additionally, most newspapers fail to realize that they have deeply embedded prejudices of which misandry is the most prevalent. At *The New York Times* it is epidemic.

Alex said...

"I could not name you an under-25 year old who subscribes to a print newspaper," says David Pogue.

I am now going to point out what the problem is.

Do you think David Pogue can point me to an under-25er who visits a news site or a blog or an "aggregator" that takes news items from traditional, mainstream media and reposts them?

Of course he can. The problem isn't that 25-and-unders aren't reading news, I bet they're reading more than ever before. The problem is that all the mainstream sources are providing this information for free. Either shut off the sites entirely or figure out a way to make it too difficult to just cut-and-paste.

Corey Tyhurst said...

Look at it this way. I got up this morning to check my email/facebook account. I read through my RSS feeds and then decided I wanted some McDonalds before work. I got the paper for free at McDonalds (I wouldn't have paid for it), and almost every single story that was in the Toronto Star I had already read on my CBC News RSS feed.

Net:
1) I don't understand the point of buying the paper if I can get all of this information delivered to my computer for free.
2)Even if the information from the RSS feeds weren't free, I could still watch the news after work (or preferably on demand) or read free blogs that give opinions on the news of the day.
3) Have you tried standing up and reading on a subway or on the bus? The pages are so huge and hard to handle... way easier on my mobile phone.

Anonymous said...

I'm 28 // Work in Publishing // Haven't touched a newspaper in 3 years and recently talked my immediate family out of their subs, and talked them into free RSS readers on their blackberry's and iphones respectfully.

Newspapers as we know them have <5 years.

Kiah said...

I'm 21 and intern at a newspaper. I read the paper daily and subscribe to it on the weekends. Does that count?

But I will tell you I'm shocked at the amount of interns I work with who don't read the paper they work for.

J said...

NYT has educational rates, so no college student pays $2 a day. They pay $0.40 a day.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous
"Print does not have a search function."

That function is provided by e-y-e-s. They're connected to the b-r-a-i-n.

Steve said...

I'm 45 and have been a newspaper guy since I was a kid. I delivered the AZ. Republic, I read it, I bought it when I moved out and wrote for it for nine years before being cut out due to main idea of this article. Just this month, I cut my subscription to Sunday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. It killed me to do it but the paper wasn't worth opening. As an educator, both at the middle school and JC level, I can tell you one reason the paper is dead or will be; the phone. Young kids are addicted to phones and can't comprehend past their screens. If it isn't a homework assignment, their entire knowledge of the world is based on the internet, their phone and stupid text messages. It's a sad situation when a student can't focus for more than five minutes without looking at the screen. Society will be undoubtedly different in another 50 years but I'll be dead.

Richard Barth said...

As Marketing Director of Santa Barbara News-Press I went on the campus of University of California at Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College to collect reasons why or why not the students were reading our daily paper. An easel and magic marker captured their comments. The positive comments, a picture of the student and a release form were secured. A testimonial campaign was born using ads showing students telling why they read our local paper. The ads were placed in the student newspaper, dorm room door hangers, student radio stations ads, website ads and a booth at orientation day. A special subscription price was offered at a student rate. 300 students signed up.

Anonymous said...

That's patently false, but it makes a good soundbite, and it also has some truth to it. That Pogue said it just makes it all the more digestible and eminently quotable, but is it really true? Anecdotal evidence says yes, but the truth is always a bit different. However, the point is that, as the commments above show, print is dying a sure slow death and five more years all that will be left will be some snailpapers here and there. The future generations will adapt and get their news in new ways. That's why it's called "news".

Anonymous said...

Is the internet making us stupid? I don't think so. Would Hamlet have
carried a BlackBerry if such a tablet was available back in his day? I
think so. (He would call it an erasable tablet!)

Is reading online and multitasking at the computer terminal re-writing
our brains? I don't think so. In fact, I am sure it is not.

Not anymore than reading a newspaper re-wires the brain. Or reading a
book on paper. Enough with this re-wiring the brain crap!

But I will tell you what I do think: I think that reading texts --
fiction and nonfiction, poetry and literature, news articles and oped
essays -- on a screen is NOT "reading" per se, as we have
traditionally defined "reading." So what is it? I believe
screen-reading is a new kind of human mode of reading and that it
calls out for a new name.

I call it "screening" until a better word comes down the road and I am
sure a better will come down the road. Soon. But for now, bear with
me, let's call it "screening." Because it aint reading!

When future MRI scans are done on people during PHD tests to ascertain
whether or not different regions of the brain light up when we read on
paper compared to when we "read" on screens, the results will show
that reading on paper is vastly superior for four things: processing
of info, retention of info, analysis and critical thinking skills.

Don't believe me? Ask Anne Mangen in Norway. Ask Maryanne Wolf at
Tufts. Ask Bill Hill in Hawaii? Ask James Fallows and David Pogue and
John Markoff. They all have their own takes on this. Listen!

Ask Gary Small at UCLA. Ask thinkers like William Powers and Patricia
Cohen and Nick Bilton and Vindu Goel and Kara Swisher. Ask Nick Carr
or Nicholson Baker. Ask Edward H. Tenner.

Ask me. I'll tell you. Of course, I aint got a pretty PHD so I don't
expect anyone to listen to me or even believe me. That's okay. Par for
the course. So ask Marvin Minsky at MIT. Ask Paul Saffo the futurist.
Ask Kevin Kelley or Charles Bigelow. Hey, ask Maureen Dowd!

Is reading on paper superior to reading on screens? You bet. Will this
make any difference? Nope. Reading devices will continue to sell and
be sold, and to hell with critical thinking and analysis, empathy or
EQ! Money talks, there's the bottom line to feed. Feed it, Jeff Bezos!