Online vs. print: Advantages of moving to digital first

When was the last time you picked up a newspaper to actually find out breaking news about a certain topic? Can’t remember? Well, neither can I. When I want to learn about breaking news or anything else, I pull out my phone and go to Google, Facebook, Twitter or one of my favorite websites. It seems like a lot of people only pick up an actual newspaper if they are bored or want to kill time, and if there happens to be a stack nearby.

Here at The Northerner, we have recently been experimenting with the idea of going “Digital First,” which means publishing news stories online as quickly as possible, without worrying about holding the stories for print editions. It is a work in progress, but I really believe it is the direction journalism is moving toward.

I am only speaking for myself, but I am all for the idea of embracing new technology and focusing our attention on evolving with the ever-changing culture, rather than structuring our schedule around production nights and the print edition of the newspaper. Just to be clear, I am not against having newspapers, but I do think organizations need to start limiting how much time is spent on them and how many papers are printed.

I understand that age, culture, personal preference, internet availability and money all play a huge part in one’s access to online content, but it is becoming standard for people to own smart phones, laptops and/or tablets. I want printed newspapers to always be around for people who don’t have access to the internet or for those who prefer the physical copy as opposed to fancy gadgets; but I do feel like the hard copies are becoming less important as time flies by.

When I first started studying journalism, I was a big fan of hard copies of newspapers. Maybe I just got tired of looking at them every week and all of the wasted stacks that will never be read.

Part of me feels like the sentimental value of the physical copies is one of the only things keeping newspapers around. People love seeing themselves in the paper and saving clips of someone they know, their favorite sports team’s success or a significant event in history. I myself have saved several newspapers since I was a teenager and I will probably continue doing it as long as they are around.

I would say the advantages of online content definitely outweigh the positive aspects that print editions offer.

Nowadays, people use their cell phones for just about everything. It could be for watching videos, listening to music, a flashlight, an alarm clock, a map/GPS, a phone/address book, a mirror, taking photos, recording videos, reporting and the list goes on and on. Why not use it as a way to read the news?
Some advantages of being “Digital First” and limiting hard copies include:

  • Having the option of being the first news outlet to break a story.
  • Spending more time on how to improve content rather than cramming multiple stories onto one page.
  • Saving a significant amount of money on printing costs.
  • Decreasing the amount of trees being slaughtered.
  • Having easy access to any story in the world.
  • Having high-definition quality of photos, colors and visual effects.
  • Being able to fix common errors
  • Staying current with popular culture, which will increase readership and help to gain more followers.
  • Sharing stories and photos with friends by sending one easy message.
  • Linking to other websites, stories and videos.
  •  The growing capabilities of interactive tablet applications.
  • Engaging the community in discussions.
  • Staying active on social networking sites.
  • Packaging videos, graphs, charts, etc. with articles.

Some advantages of the print editions include:

  • The convenience of not having to use electricity or batteries.
  •  Having visually pleasing page designs that have not been fully converted to some online articles yet.
  • Personal preference of holding the physical copy.
  • Easier for people who are not accustomed to using certain technology.
  • Giving people news who do not have access to the internet.