Monday, May 4, 2009

It's here, but too late

For those who have known me since college, I always dreamed of the "next step" for newspaper delivery. This would be one that saves costs and eliminates the minimum-wage delivery system. No offense to the paperboy or the guy who is trying to get a little extra cash for the family (heck, my brother-in-law did this to help make ends meet).

But if technology could find a way to get me a newspaper to my home without the occasional interruption or failure, that would increase a newspaper's net worth. At least, that's how I viewed it. Think about it. A newspaper spends a considerable amount of money on reporters, editors, photographers, printing presses, paper, etc., and leaves the final step to some poor kid on a bike or a guy driving a beat up car. And you hope his throw doesn't send the paper onto to the roof, or that one puddle in front of your house.

Saving money. Increasing reliability. Improving customer service. Keeping up with technology. For those who knew me back then, you got sick of this former journalist's rants about delivery improvements.

When I worked at newspapers, I kept a hope alive in my thoughts that technology would help advance newspapers in some way. With college lectures about how Ted Turner's 24-hour TV news service would spell the end of newspapers still vivid in my psyche, I always held a fear that other forms of communication would someday have a negative impact on the profession I so dearly loved.

My dream was to use cable, telephone lines or some other "electronic routing" to homes to somehow magically make a real newspaper appear inside your home. There would be some kind of tube where the printed edition is formed and I would just reach in and grab it. Gone would be the middle guy. Reliability was improved. Costs are cut. Everyone wins. (Well, except for the delivery folks).

So, now, as newspapers collapse around us, comes Amazon and a new Kindle to handle newspapers. This was the dream. It's here.

But, I think it comes too late.


Paul L. Martin said...

Denis, I too, grew up on newspapers and used to be one of those delivery boys on a bike at 5AM throwing the paper on porches. I love journalism and newsprint, so it was with great regret that I canceled my subscriptions to the LA Times and the NY Times. I blogged about the experience at

So we wait for what the future holds, but I am not sure Kindle is the answer.

Paul L. Martin
The Teacher's View

Derek said...

As a former employee of the Los Angeles Times (my role was to forecast the continuing declining trend of circulation for financial and operational planning sake), I can tell you that the Kindle has been tossed around as an idea for reducing distribution costs to outlying subscribers in areas where there are still a handful or loyal LA Times readers, such as Hemet. The problem is, these readers like the traditional touch and feel of the newspaper and are not as tech saavy as the folks who are departing the paper for online print or on their smart phones. To make matters worse, management at the LA Times, has no background in developing lease models to earn any return on investment ("ROI") on deploying Kindles or other newspaper readers to subscribers so any net savings could easily be lost in the hardware costs. In other words, newspapers don't have the same "hooks" to keep subscribers as cell phone carriers can offer, offering large discounts on the hardware to keep up the monthly service. That being said, the Kindle is not a large scale solution for medium to large newspapers such as the LA Times, no matter how you work the numbers (unless you're selling the subscriptions to a still somewhat nascent base of new Kindle adopters who are willing to pay the hardware costs on their own).