Newspaper realities

I have been a loyal Sydney Morning Herald reader since I was a kid. It is telling of the story of my city and the world has been integral to who I am today, in ways trivial and vital.

My first taste of ambition came from reading the original Domain section in The Good Weekend. Every Saturday they would highlight a couple of amazing houses, usually flashy and always expensive. I set one of my goals to one day own a house that would be at home in that little square of newsprint, and thanks to some hard work and my wife’s brilliance I have one.

Reading the Herald every day is essential to me, but today I do it mostly online. In the past I would stop on the way to work to buy a coffee and grab the paper, but it has been coffee only for a decade or so. Most of my day is spent at a desk and it is just easier to read it online.

I have the weekend editions delivered to my home and one of my true and lasting pleasures is having the hour or two to sit down and read the Saturday edition cover to cover.

Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood recently attracted some ire by flagging the end of weekday newspapers. There is always an argument when people raise the viability of newspapers long term, but here is my prediction, at least for Sydney – Fairfax will discontinue the weekday Herald fairly soon, but the Daily Telegraph will keep on printing for a few years beyond.

There is an industry in dissecting circulation numbers and I don’t pretend to have any expertise. My prediction is not based on who prints more today. And besides, with the way News gives its papers away what would those figures even mean? My prediction is based on who buys which paper.

Herald readers are overwhelmingly professionals, people who have office jobs and most likely ready access to a computer during the day, or a job where they can easily access the net. Their best media is the screen.

Telegraph readers tend to be blue collar or trades based and have a lot less time near a screen, even with a smart phone. Their best media is newsprint they can buy and read on a break.

My own factory is a good example of how this plays out. I’m online most of the day and am constantly dropping in and out of the Herald’s site for news. A physical paper on my desk would be a redundant pain in the backside.

But the guys in the factory don’t have a computer they can access so they bring the paper. The paper they bring is always the Telegraph, and there are a lot more of them than there are of me.

In the end they will all go – the resources will eventually have to end up somewhere more productive – but I will be there ‘til the bitter end.

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