Skip to main content

Why dirty up my hands with newsprint?

  • Story Highlights
  • CNN tech columnist Chris Pirillo ponders the death of print newspapers
  • Pirillo says he's not an elitist, he's just used to getting his news online
  • Failure to adapt to the changing methods will leave you behind, Pirillo says
  • Pirillo: "If you work in the newspaper industry, I hope your skills translate"
  • Next Article in Technology »
By Chris Pirillo
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

(CNN) -- For grins, next time you're in the mood for a movie, go rent "The Paper" with Michael Keaton and Glenn Close. Released in 1994, it involves a day in the life of a New York City tabloid newspaper.

A self-admitted tech geek, Chris Pirillo is president of, a blogging network.

A self-admitted tech geek, Chris Pirillo is president of, a blogging network.

What a difference a decade (and a half) makes.

It's a bit like a denizen of the year 1909 trying to fathom the relevance of what went on behind the scenes of 1894's cutthroat horse and buggy industry while Henry Ford's factories roll out Model T after Model T, dramatically changing the world's landscape -- for better and worse -- in ways we're still dealing with here in the 21st century.

Recently, someone asked me about the last time I'd picked up a newspaper, and I couldn't honestly remember when that was.

Actually, no -- I take that back. I picked up a local weekly from our driveway and tossed it into the recycling bin just the other day.

Why dirty up my hands with newsprint when I can just go see the same information presented in the more searchable and easier to share format of a Web edition?

And what if a so-called news agency doesn't have an online edition of its paper? Then I find its relevancy even more dubious and obsolete since it's failed to scoop this bit of hot news that should be apparent to anyone with brains in their noggins: print media is dying.

Failure to adapt to the rapidly changing methods of media distribution will leave the clueless wallowing behind like mastodons in the muck of a Pleistocene tar pit (about as slow and agonizing of a death as I can imagine).

I'm not an elitist or anything. I've just grown accustomed to getting my news online -- something that gives me the ability to pass interesting articles immediately on to friends. Without scissors, paper scraps, and messy fingers, you just can't do that with print.

I also love having the power to type in a keyword to find out what related events are going on in the world at that very moment. If I want the skinny on the details of a tech conference keynote, for instance, I can skim online resources live or just minutes after the fact instead of waiting for the next day's (or a late edition's) tech column.

And then, of course, I can instantly pass along such details to people I know. Thanks to the Internet, it's like the grapevine just got a healthy dose of Miracle-Gro.

The classic argument against electronic news was that it wasn't very portable -- you couldn't take it with you anywhere. I'm not going to say that the iPhone changed the rules, but it's certainly given me the best mobile Web browser I've ever experienced. It's true that newspapers don't run out of batteries, but they also take up more space.

The real estate of online news sources is better utilized, too, in my opinion. Classifieds are no longer squished into thin columns; I can surf craigslist without squinting.

And (speaking of real estate) which sort of ad is more likely to sell a house nowadays: the newspaper's truncated description with a single, low-resolution thumbnail, or a virtual tour with live mapping services and geographical and geopolitical information with feature comparisons to other properties available? Thought so.

As far as other players in the print media world go, magazines may be around for a while longer. They're usually targeted to a specific audience, have wide distribution, and much more targeted advertising. Still, they're not immune to the fading of print importance.

Catalogs? They may never disappear as long as people are buying and the cost per acquisition is lower than the cost of printing and mailing. Phone books are still really useful ... for short people in need of a boost at the dinner table.

There will always be a need for an information industry, so to speak. It's how that information is disseminated that must remain fluid and ready to adapt along with the technology of the times. With the rise of literacy and invention of the printing press, the town crier of yore soon found himself out of a job.

If you work in the newspaper industry, I hope your skills translate -- because I just don't see newspapers (in their current state) being around in another decade. I'm not trying to bag on newspapers, mind you; I made good money as a paperboy when I was younger.

If someone puts out a film about a day in the life of an online media mogul this year, I'm curious to see what sort of article -- and in what format -- I'll be writing in 2024.

All About Internet

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print
Today's Featured Product:
2011 BMW Z4 sDrive35is
 8.0 out of 10
Recent Product Reviews:
RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800 (AT&T)
 8.0 out of 10
Motorola Rambler - black (Boost Mobile)
 7.0 out of 10
Samsung UN46C6500
 6.9 out of 10