In preparation for the Observer’s 30th ‘Best Of’ edition, I located and scanned every Best Of cover since the first publication in 1981. Cycling through volumes of old editions, a lot has changed since ’81. For one, the Observer appeared to be a much larger publication in its infant years, with some editions hundreds of pages long. As its readership grew and the years progressed, I can only imagine that for whatever reason – and perhaps the economy is to blame – funding and budgets got cut and the publication was forced to downsize.
But perhaps it was for the better. Publications like the Observer that can adapt to change will ultimately prevail through the toughest of battles, and right now it – like most other print publications – is fighting to stay above water.
Art Director Alexander Flores at the Observer brought up an interesting talking point when discussing the sink or swim of present and past publications in that they (most of them) are currently offering their content online, for free. The same content which in print-form you have to pay for.
See, the thing about print is that it cost money. Lots of money. Fee’s associated with print address the manufacturing of the publication, the materials, the labor of the staff that composes it, the delivery services and those employees, etc., costing the publication – but more realistically, it’s advertisers – thousands upon thousands for presumably each edition.
So, now that the media and its print publications are beginning to recognize that while although it’s costing them an untold amount of dollars to produce print content, they’ve all-along been offering the SAME content online at no cost at all. So, what to do?
The solution is currently being discussed by both conservative and liberal news organizations such as the Dallas Morning News and the New York Times which are beginning to conclude on at least one solution: to start charging their readers for viewing online content.
But wait a minute… you’ve been providing it for free all this time and you’ve built a significant online following (especially from the younger generation and the news-hungry politicos), so how do you, the media organization, justify this proposed ‘solution’ to help pay for your survival?
Herein lies the trival question to which myself, Alex, and I’m sure many more are awaiting an answer, although I’m fairly confident it’s a predictable one: F*ck the reader. Pay the subscription.