Printed Newspapers Are Dead; Thanks A Lot, Millennials

After more than 20 years of subscribing to The New York Times, I’ve finally faced reality and canceled home delivery of the print edition and moved exclusively to an all-access digital pass. Truth is, it’s been years since I’ve regularly read The New York Times—or The Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post, for that matter—in print, at least. In fact, I’ve spent the past four or five years methodically suspending my home delivery and simply reading the Times on my iPhone, tablet or laptop.

When I mentioned to some Millennial colleagues that I finally gave up reading The New York Times in print in favor of reading it in digital formats, their reactions ranged from, “What took you so long?” to “BuzzFeed is better than the Times, LOL!” to “There’s a print version?” Indeed, it seems as if I’m one of the last of my cohorts to give up the ghost on print media. Having spent the early part of my career working at print magazines, I’d been a longtime advocate and fan of the printed page. Apparently, my reading habits were more akin to a 65-year-old, college-educated matron than a Gen Xer who works in new media and tech. Whomp whomp.

Depending on who you believe, Millennials are still totally into newspapers or only the olds read newspapers, obvs. If my daily commute into the city is any indicator, nobody seems to be reading printed newspapers nowadays. A few years ago, the morning rush-hour train would reliably be awash with (admittedly mostly older-than-30-year-old) commuters flipping through newspapers. This morning, I counted just one person on the train with a printed newspaper, but he looked like a Millennial hipster who was reading the Life section of USA Today ironically. Everyone else was held captive by the content on the tiny and some not-so-tiny screens in front of them. Instead of the rustle of newsprint, the only sounds to be heard on the quiet car these days are the barely audible clicks of smartphone keyboards and home screen buttons.

While there’s no denying that newspaper readership, circulation and revenue have been on a steady decline for many years, the debate over who’s to blame for the death of printed newspapers seems to rage on. Aging and dying newspaper readers aside, it’s easy to point judge-y, old-people fingers at digitally native Millennials—who have eschewed ink for bits—as the main accelerators of print’s demise. But advertisers, too, can be blamed as their investment and spending in digital platforms haven’t kept pace with the rapid migration of readers from print to digital.

The transformation of the media landscape has been compounded by the transformation of the relative size and kinds of information that consumers of all generations seem to want these days. In our Snapchat, short-attention-span world, why would any of us want to sort through a standard lede and nut graf when we can watch hilarious videos of cats playing pianos or scroll through a photo-driven listicle of Caitlyn Jenner’s most glamorous looks, amirite? I’m not saying that we might have gotten a little bit stupider over time, I’m just sayin’.

As a graduate student in 1994, subscribing to the Gray Lady was a rite of passage that felt like one of the first adult things that I did. But everyone knows that adulting is hard, especially when you’re lugging around an ancient artifact like a printed newspaper under your arm, so giving up on printed newspapers might be the most grownup thing that I’ve done in a long time.

2 comments about "Printed Newspapers Are Dead; Thanks A Lot, Millennials".
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  1. Brian Hews from Hews Media Group-Community News, June 24, 2016 at 11:33 a.m.

    Agree with you that DAILY regional newspapers are dying, but not WEEKLY community newspapers. I publish a print weekly 86,000 every Friday in SE Los Angeles. The reason the paper works and people read it is you cannot get the news I publish anywhere else. The dailies and big websites just put their own spin on the same story. I publish local community stories and I am delivered once per week, so they can read on Saturday. Plus local newspapers usually publish legal notices so residents can know what is going on at City Council meetings. Local sports teams, events all over cities, senior events, and of course exposing corrupt local politicians is what weekly communty newspapers publish. The dailies have fled my area so there is no longer a watchdog for city councils and other corrupt politicians. Read your local paper and write letters to the the fourth estate!

  2. Jaymi Curley from The Home Depot SSC/Marketing, June 28, 2016 at 1:49 p.m.

    I'm more concerned that the public at large has abandoned journalism along with the actual paper & ink. As we have drifted into the digital space, it seems we have turned our backs on real factual, unbiased reporting and steadily aceepted a hodgepodge of factoids mixed with opinion and trivia as "news." We accept our news pre-chewed and mostly digested, instead of wrestiling with big issues and unpacking complicated national and international happenings in our own heads and formulating our own ideas. This does not bode well for the future. Especially when we are a generation that considers "adulting" as a verb, implying something you do part time, rather than being an adult, which is a full-time job.

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