My mother the newspaper killer

Newspaper colour

LAST WORD: My mother the newspaper killer

By Marzena Czarnecka

JANINE MELNITZ: I bet you like to read a lot, too.

DR EGON SPENGLER: Print is dead.

JANINE MELNITZ: Oh, that’s very interesting to me, I read a lot myself. Some people think I’m too intellectual but I think it’s a fabulous way to spend your spare time. I also play racketball. Do you have any hobbies?

DR EGON SPENGLER: I collect spores, moulds and fungus.

From Ghostbusters (1984)

They call regularly once or twice a month. “Good evening, ma’am, I am calling on behalf of the Herald.” Or Sun. The Journal. The Globe. The Post. Etc. I cause them pain. I don’t want a newspaper subscription. Haven’t had one in years.

They ask why. I fight the urge to tell them it’s because I don’t have a cat. “I read all my news online, I say.” It’s starting to trickle in; last month, one of them tried to sell me an online newspaper subscription to a local paper. And I disappointed her, again. I do pay for online content, absolutely. Online content of my local newspaper when I can read the world for free? Ha.

(I shouldn’t be writing this, really, I shouldn’t. I owe a not insignificant chunk of my living to media moguls who do their best to support the faltering Canadian pulp and paper industry. I mean, they do print Canadian newspapers and magazines on Canadian paper from Canadian trees, don’t they? Don’t they?)

My telemarketer is desperate to meet a quote. She starts to wax poetic about print.

I hang up the telephone gently. I don’t want to get into a “Is print dead debate?” And I know it’s not. You can’t take your laptop into the bathtub with you. On the airplane or train, you can’t beat a nice, crinkly magazine. It’s much more convenient to read a book than a website in bed. Books… books are beautiful. And here to stay.

Newspapers and other traditional media? If not, as per Dr. Spengler, dead for the last 20 years, then certainly fading.

Now, don’t mistake me for an unabashed Webophile. The sheer cost and effort involved in getting things printed used to mitigate against the worst of the excesses of bad writing and useless misinformation fond on the Internet. Now… well, you sift through as much of this chaff as I do. (Note: just because you can blog doesn’t mean you should.)

But the ability to present/get news, research and information online as soon as it becomes available—priceless. (Especially when the reader isn’t paying for it.)

Now, it is in my pecuniary self-interest (and that of the Canadian pulp and paper industry, among others) that the Thomsons and Aspers of this world keep on pouring money into traditional media well past the point of reason. But of course they won’t. They’ve been preparing to take the leap for years. They’ve been held back by two chains.

Chain number has been, of course, the slow process of educating advertisers and sponsors that they should pay as much if not more for online ads as for print ads. Chain number two has been the shared belief of the media moguls and the advertisers that customers valued print, needed print, and wanted print. These two premises have meant that most newspaper and magazine publishers have used their online content as teasers for their print content—a faulty model that many businesses, including law firms, have followed.

So I think it behooves me to inform the media moguls—those that deal in print as well as those that deliver information and entertainment via radio and television—that the chains have snapped. I have proof absolute that your audience has made the leap and left traditional media behind. Ready for this? Sitting down?

My mother bought an i-Pod.

Let me reiterate. My mother bought an i-Pod. The woman who never learned to program a VCR or use a typewriter is downloading podcasts, and listening to those instead of the radio (she’s not buying CDs anymore either). High on her purchase, the woman who, 10 years ago, only used the antiquated family computer for playing solitaire and Mah-jong, is getting her news online—as print, radio and webcasts. In her spare time, she is also laying waste to the phone company. She now uses Skype. Skype! She has an Internet cam. What’s next?

It’s the end of the world as we knew it.

Marzena Czarnecka is a Calgary-based freelance writer, paid blogger and the progency of an IT engineer and a former Luddite.

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