It was sad, but not altogether shocking, to hear that Newsweek is going out of the print business, and becoming all-digital. Sad, because I have friends there; they could be among the people who lose their jobs in the transition.
Why shouldn’t newspapers around the world, or at least in the most internet-saturated parts of the world, just stop the presses — especially if they know they’ll have to do it anyway, and in the meantime the cash is draining away? What are the restraining factors? Habit and tradition? Powerful executives who have known the print world for so long that they can’t imagine life without it? The half-conscious feeling that paper and ink are real in ways that pixels and bits are not, and that if you only have pixels and bits you might as well be just a blogger, without a saleable product you can hold in your hand?
This inquiring mind really, really wants to know.
Here’s a big part of the answer: because there still are lots of people — older people, mostly — who don’t get their news online, and who still prefer the print product. These people don’t want to read their paper on a computer or an iPad. And there are enough of them to make print a viable business, though a rapidly declining one, because these people are dying every day, and not being replaced by younger readers. Plus, for every dollar newspapers make in print advertising, they make only 10 cents in online advertising. That’s a powerful incentive to keep the presses rolling.
Everybody knows that it can’t last forever. But nobody wants to be the one who turns the switch off on the printing presses, and, as I indicate, not just because of irrational restraining factors. I have been out of the habit of reading a print newspaper for a couple of years now, preferring to get almost all my news online. It was hard to go without a tangible paper for about a week, then I got used to it. My mom and dad will never, ever be without a newspaper, unless they outlive the printing presses (which they might).
You know what’s not going out of the print business? The American Conservative. Nor are we going out of the online business. As Daniel McCarthy points out, we’re the kind of magazine that works in both formats. But we are not cheap to produce, and we depend on subscribers for support. Somebody’s got to pay for Daniel Larison to give Mitt Romney hell from the realist foreign policy right. Somebody’s got to pay the dental bills when the poor little Dreher children’s teeth rot out of their head because they won’t stop eating Nutella. Why not you?
Seriously, I’ve been so gratified by the outpouring of support for TAC from
readers of this blog members of this blog’s community who have subscribed in the past couple of days. I know a few of y’all aren’t even conservatives, but you appreciate the kind of work we do here, and want to read voices from the alternative right. We appreciate your vote of confidence in us, and recognize that you make our work possible. I hope we both give you pleasure and earn your trust — but if we don’t, you can always ask for a refund, and you’ll get it, guaranteed. Come on, gang, if you haven’t taken advantage of our great Election Season special offer — a whole year of TAC for only $10 — what are you waiting for?