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To only be 26, I like to think of myself as an old school kind of guy. I believe in hard work, think buying jeans with holes in them is ridiculous and wouldn’t trade in my paperback for a Kindle if it was free and served on a golden platter. To me, there’s something visceral and real about feeling the texture of a worn page under your fingertips and counting paper cuts as battle scars from a good book. I love going through old novels on my shelves and remembering what made me stop to mark my page in the middle of a good part, how delicious that cup of coffee was before spilling on that chapter and how good my feet felt in the sand as a couple grains stuck to the last page.
But, for some reason I don’t have that same relationship with the paper. I check out NYTimes.com and CharlotteObserver.com daily, but the thought of paying for something I can get free online really irks the cheapskate in me.
However, this morning I armed myself with a pot of coffee, my grandma’s fig jelly, fuzzy slippers I’m not ashamed of and read The Charlotte Observer from cover to cover. It took a while, but I learned a lot. I learned how a local merger may affect my power bill, read about an awesome exhibit coming to The Queen City and was excited to see the Bobcats pull out a win over John Wall and company.
I also learned that maybe I’m not quite as old school as I thought.
Don’t get me wrong, the hard copy experience was great, but it killed me to read about Stephen Jackson’s great dunk and not be able to see it with a corresponding video. The Duke Energy article was interesting, but it really just made me want to log on and see how it might affect my account. And the review of The Black Swan was great, but damn it, I know there had to be a slide show of Natalie Portman in the online version!
At least I’m not alone. According to a Pew Research Centre report published in the December issue of The Economist, Americans received more news from the Internet than newspapers for the first time in 2010. This exodus to e-news is not without implications as media around the world struggle to find a workable balance of attracting readers via free content and paying the bills through paywalls that require users to fork over some dough for access. While no magic bullet has emerged, industry leaders believe a metered approach is the best option available – allowing consumers to sample a handful of articles, but then restricting access to the rest to encourage paid subscriptions.
Obviously, opinions on this development will differ, but one takeaway is clear. In order to justify this new expense to a population that has grown accustomed to free news, competition among media outlets will increase exponentially to emphasize superior attributes, offerings and advantages. As marketing communications professionals, it’s imperative we see this competition as an opportunity to research, analyze and take advantage of so that when media have a need, we are there to fill it with engaging content that simultaneously advances the business goals of our client partners.