WAN: 'Print media should be an island in the chaos'

Print media’s seclusion from the internet it its emerging strength, according to William Powers, media columnist for the US-based National Journal magazine.

In his keynote speech addressing the World Association of Newspapers readership conference, Powers explained some of the key topics from his essay: “Hamlet’s Blackberry” which discussed the enduring power of paper.

He said: “In a multi-tasking world where pure focus is harder and harder to come by, I believe print media’s seclusion from the web is an emerging strength.

“Paper is a still-point for the consciousness, an escape from the never-ending business and burdens of the screen.

“It’s an island in the chaos. Rather than ‘everything all the time’, paper’s slogan could be ‘just this one thing’.”

Powers said that although the limitlessness of the internet was “wonderful in many ways” and suited to news consumption, its “vastness is also its greatest flaw” and that reading longer articles online was difficult and distracting.

“When you’re reading an article on a screen, your mind is conscious of all the other information that’s just a click away – from your inbox to the latest headlines to your bank account to a billion You Tube videos.

“Thus, instead of escaping other demands on your attention as you read, you are mentally fending off those demands every moment you’re at the screen.”

James Cooper, strategy and corporate development executive for Guardian News and Media, asked Powers that if news is the problem and not print, does that imply papers need to move towards a weekly frequency rather than a daily, or could he see a use for daily publications that aren’t necessary delivering time-sensitive news?

Powers said: “It’s a logical step that and I think that people who start thinking about newspapers that way could catch fire. I think people need to get their minds around what a newspaper is, and maybe have content in the newspaper helping the readers get their mind around all these changes.

“Is a newspaper in terms of news just something on the web, then something extra in hard copy that is just as valuable but as you suggest doesn’t come as often?”

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