Back to paper

The Times of London is now printing in New York. Below, I link to a report that the Guardian is going to put out constantly updated PDFs available for printing. The Guardian also prints a fax edition in the U.S. now and there are reports they’ll be printing more.

Ain’t that ironic? They move from paper to digital to paper.

I’m not sure what the strategy is but I think that for different reasons, it’s actually a forerunner of what we’ll see here eventually: Print as value added and a promotional vehicle for the real business, online.

So far as I can tell, the only reason to print the Times of London here is to get it promotion and presence … and for Rupert Murdoch to brag that he has presses — at the New York Post — and the other guys don’t.

Clearly, the strategy behind The Times edition has nothing to do with advertising: They kept in the UK ads filled with couches and refrigerators all available in pounds sterling. Yesterday’s Sunday Times, printed broadsheet while the daily is tabloid, had a British Airways ad on the front page and it touted flights to New York, when flights from New York might have made more sense. Clearly, they’re not selling the ads and I’m not sure it will ever be worth the effort to try for a tiny circulation.

Still, the Times U.S. edition looks good. And it has lots of good reading for the subway. It’s a bit pricey for $1, considering that much of it doesn’t pertain to me. But when looking for something to read on the commute when I’ve finished my other papers, I’ve picked up the Times and enjoyed it.

But here’s my primary reaction: I wish to hell that our New York Times and other U.S. newspapers would put out tabloid or Berliner editions instead of their unwieldy broadsheets. It’s so convenient — so pleasant — to be able to read Rupert’s Times on the subway without bumping into fellow passengers or at the lunch table without overturning glasses on the table or anywhere without having to perform intricate origami just to turn the damned page. The switch to tabloid helped every European paper that made it. Clearly, readers prefer it — this can’t be cultural — and not listening to them is an act of stubborn willfulness by newspaper executives. There’s no reason why U.S. publishers should be ignoring this clear data — except that, once again, they hate and fear change. But the size of the paper is the least of the changes facing them. Having no paper at all is a much bigger change.

(I’ll write more later on the British invasion of American news media.)