November 5, 2002

The answer to declining readership…

I do not know what the answer is to the problem of declining newspaper readership. But I think this review of the Boston Globe’s Ideas section by Jack Shafer presents one good possibility. Shafer says the Ideas section is written for people who like to read and assumes “that you’ve done your current events homework during the week and that you’ve set aside time to read and to think about the important stuff that the news obscured.” He contrasts this new effort with new products by the Chicago papers (Red Eye and Red Streak) that appear to be aimed at people who don’t like to read. I was a little surprised at Shafer’s conclusion:

“Ideas” isn’t the answer to the newspaper industry’s problem of declining readership, but it’s high time editors started whoring after smart people who want to read.

Well, okay, maybe it’s not the answer, but I would argue it is certainly an answer. If this catches on, perhaps newspapers could begin acting like text-based media again instead of imitating TV, which began in earnest with the appearance of USA Today.

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