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By Thomas Baekdal - October 2011

Why You Savor The Printed Newspaper

Every time I say digital will replace print, people respond that there is still something about print that they favor.

One example was when Scott Mckain recently wrote:

One of the real treats of my weekend is the home delivery of the Sunday New York Times. I love the quiet of a Sunday morning, drinking coffee, devouring the newspaper. I know I could read it all online (with a paid subscription)-there's just something about the feel of the newspaper I still savor.

I fully understand that feeling but my question to you is: What creates it? What is it that makes print so special?

It is not really "print" that makes it special but a number of other factors. One being that it forces you into a single consumption mode (no distractions), while using your laptop or iPad you always feel that you can "just check your email" or check the latest social feeds. The "single-mindedness" of print makes it less stressful to consume.

We see it all the time. Studies have found the people read 70 seconds of online versus 20 mins in print. We relax with print. We act with digital.

Note: But this study was based on "per session." The question is, how often do people come back to print versus coming back to digital. You might only spend 70 seconds per session, but people also check their digital sources 100 times per day.

The second reason being the familiarity. That is when you remember the times when you relaxed with a good book. You brain has somehow connected that feeling to the physical connection of a printed book. This is also why young people don't have that connection. To them it is just an object, but for people who grew up with print, it is a feeling.


A third reason being the ease of use. We can have a long debate if print is really easier to use (try searching for an article or a specific quote inside a book, and you will find print to be really annoying.) But print is just one simple navigation that works across all printed material. You don't have to think, to set it up, download a file, or figure out some iPad navigation fanciness. You can just focus on the content.

A fourth reason is trust. We trust things that we know and distrusts things that are new. Right now, news readers like Zite or Flipboard are new, and we don't really understand how they work. But what happens when we do? What happens when we start to trust digital?

Is print responsible for any of these, or are we just used print because that is how it started? What will happen when people start to connect the same feeling to their digital devices? Will we then not get the same sentiment towards digital that many people today has towards print?

Is the feeling you have towards print really about the paper? Could we reproduce that feeling digitally? Are we already doing it? What do you think?

Note: Image via Terje S. Skjerdal


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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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