What The 'NYT' Gave Up When They Forced Me To Digital

Politico this week reported on a fascinating study by a couple of University of Texas profs that pretty much says that, in the rush to repurpose and extend editorial content onto the Web, editors and publishers made a colossal business blunder that has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars.

The study surveyed the total local online readership of 51 top U.S. newspapers and found that almost none have experienced any growth since 2007, the point at which the online versions had been available for about a decade, making it a mature product. In fact, more than half have lost online readers since 2011.

Yes, consumers go online for news — but most readers go to news aggregators, like Yahoo News, Google News,, MSN and other non-newspaper sites. The financial performance of online newspapers is “underwhelming,” the study found, with total newspaper industry digital advertising revenue increasing from $3 billion to only $3.5 billion from 2010 to 2014.



In a separate book, one of the profs opines that readers avoid online newspapers because in comparison to their print versions, they’re "inferior goods." One 2012 survey found that 66% of users prefer the print version of their daily newspaper over the Web edition.

I could not agree more. About a year ago I examined all of the pricing alternatives for the three newspapers I read daily. The New York Times made it clear that it no longer wanted me as a home delivery customer by making digital access FAR more affordable. So I got a tablet (that the savings more than paid for) and made the switch.  The Wall Street Journal, by contrast, made home delivery just about as affordable as digital access, so I still have that tossed down the driveway every day.  

Now I spend about 45 minutes with the WSJ, reading every section (OK, I don't really read the finance stuff) and seeing just about every print advert. Since I read it first, if it has the same story as the NYT, I often skip the Times version, especially for local NYC news. When I switch on the digital NYT, there is an ad for about every three inches of text — which, since it is small, ugly and often mistargeted, I ignore completely. Who among us does not have a full-blown case of banner blindness now? So, in effect, the NYT is making no money off my digital presence other than the access fee. I have opted out of all of its partner emails.

I admit I am an old-school newspaper reader who doesn't mind the blackened fingertips, nor that the paper won't always fold in half easily. When I read a printed newspaper, I see so much more. My eyes scan every headline, see every ad. I can quickly scan stories or save them for later (opinion pages are great for killing muted commercial TV time during football). I know where to find stuff in print, hardly ever online. It is usually an immersive experience. Digital simply is not. It is hit and run.

I have to agree totally with the profs: In comparison to their print versions, online newspapers are "inferior goods."

So, too, apparently, are the economics.

4 comments about "What The 'NYT' Gave Up When They Forced Me To Digital".
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  1. Ari Rosenberg from Performance Pricing Holdings, LLC, October 20, 2016 at 8:11 p.m.

    Great post as usual George.  People don't read online they gaze and are so quick to jump to some place else to feed the A.D.D. we have all developed online.  Real reading occurs when your hands hold something physical, your eyes focus on each word, and when you can hear your own accomplishments with the sound of turning the page. 

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 21, 2016 at 11:23 a.m.

    Digital newspapers (et al) certainly hasn't made us smarter.

  3. William Hoelzel from JWB Associates, October 21, 2016 at 1:53 p.m.

    Funny to see your column protesting The NYT for having ads after every 3 inches of copy -- when your platform is doing the same thing.  Print it out and see.  Not saying you're right or wrong -- just sayin'.

  4. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, October 21, 2016 at 4:02 p.m.

    Not protesting so much Bill, but contrasting with seeing display ads in the print edition ( which have the added bonus of not following you after you read them).

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