On the 1st of January 2010 I decided to give up buying / reading newspapers for 365 days to see what impact it would have on me as both a regular 'Joe' and in my role as a PR consultant.
The best place to keep up with the experiment is via the dedicated home page.
The post which explains the experiment from day one is featured below...
(feel free to send me an email if you have any questions)
1 January 2010
The original post: My year without buying newspapers starts today (The 'Newspaper-less' experiment)
I LOVE newspapers. I especially love BRITISH newspapers.
The Sun is a 'true' national treasure. The Daily Telegraph is the definition of the 'fourth' estate. The Daily Star is a brilliant example of knowing your audience. I could go on...and on...and on.
So, following a year in which the 'future of the media' (including this noteworthy speech by Robert Peston) has been so heavily debated, particularly the future of newspapers, I asked myself a pretty honest question over the Christmas break:
Could I survive an entire year without buying a newspaper?
Now, before I go any further, I can't stress enough how important it is in my profession (PR) to know the media inside out.
Advising a client on PR activity without knowing the media landscape relevant to them, is, in a word, insane.
So, not only are newspapers a big part of me as a person, providing me with enjoyment and entertainment, they are an even bigger part of me from a professional standpoint.
In saying that, newspapers only make up one element of the media mix...but they are still considered as the 'Holy Grail' or the 'Big Daddy' as far as PR goes (in most instances anyway...as I've said on countless occasions via this Blog, the media consumed by the target audience for that specific brief is paramount and should steer the strategy).
Why newspapers? Reach. Trust. Impact. Influence. Prominence. Power.
Bearing this in mind, can I realistically do my job and, perhaps just as importantly, be connected to the world around me, without newspapers?
I honestly don't know...hence the following...
A year without buying newspapers: The experiment
The original rule I created was that 'I couldn't buy a newspaper for 365 days.'
Then came questions like:
- Could I read a 'free' copy of The Metro in the morning?
- Would I be allowed to peek over someone's shoulder and muscle in on their paper on the train?
- If I popped into my local cafe for breakfast could I read the 'complimentary' copy of the News of the World sitting there, begging me to pick it up?
- And how about the stack of newspapers we get in the office everyday? I personally don't 'pay' for them but could easily read them whenever I wanted.
And this is where it got tricky...and interesting...
Would simply not 'buying' newspapers prove anything? (And, what am I trying to prove?)
Would a total ban on the consumption of newspapers, in any form, for all of 2010, provide more insight and value?
After much deliberation, I arrived at the following:
The 'proactive acquisition' of content via newspapers in off limits in 2010.
I can't do anything about the BBC Breakfast team flicking through the papers in the morning live on air.
I can't avoid every newsstand in London for 12 months in fear that I might catch a glimpse of the front page of The Mirror.
I'm attempting to adopt a common sense approach to something that, frankly, is anything but.
What does it really mean?
Well, again, this answer will come out in the wash.
I'll rely even more heavily on digital channels.
I'll spend more time on the websites of the papers I'd normally read.
I'll experiment with more apps, gadgets and widgets to deliver content from those outlets to me.
My Factiva alerts and the like take on greater significance.
I'll probably read e-editions where possible (like the version of The Metro delivered to my inbox each day at 6am).
On the surface, it appears that the only thing I'll lose due to this experiment is the enjoyment that comes from physically reading a paper.
If anything, there's enough evidence to suggest I'll probably have more insight and knowledge into these outlets by taking a more systematic and 'digital only' approach to their consumption than I otherwise would if I simply 'physically' consumed them.
But that's the thing...who knows?
Where it's really likely to hurt...
If you work in PR, there is no better buzz than putting a story out and seeing it in ink the next day.
In fact, on several occasions in the past ten years I've set my alarm for 5am, run to the nearest newsagent, and grabbed every paper I could find to see if my client's 'news' had appeared.
I won't physically share in those moments in 2010...but I'll still be happy when they happen...I'll just have to bask in the online versions instead.
I will probably be at my most inconsolable when the World Cup is on...oh, and then there's The Ashes later in the year...no Mike Atherton over breakfast...I might cry in a minute...
Is it too late to renege on this increasingly silly idea?
Yes, it is too late...and it is far too important.
We've taken our newspapers for granted in recent times.
They are institutions. They've brought us together for hundreds of years. They represent the mood, feelings, thoughts and opinions of the nation (or the region they cover).
In 12 months time, I hope that I can say that every element of the media mix has its place (which, coincidentally, is where things are likely to end up anyway).
I hope that I can say that the acquisition of news / staying on top of current affairs is possible by adopting a purely digital existence, but that quality analysis, probing features and thought provoking campaigns are best delivered in print.
The plan is to chronicle this journey via the Blog and assess its impact at regular intervals throughout the year.
I'm nervous and scared, but here goes...
- I plan to calculate what money I'd normally spend on 'buying' newspapers over the course of a 12 month period and donate this fee to a student studying journalism (as my biggest fear is that editorial standards would drop across the board if newspapers lost their place / role in society)
- I also plan to be more critical of digital media, and this will be chronicled in the Blog - through being more critical I hope to share some insights into what traditional and new media can collectively do to be better in 2011 and beyond
- I hope my colleagues, and especially my friends on the nationals, appreciate that I will still do everything in my power to 'consume' your news as much as possible throughout the year, and that in conducting this little experiment the joy of 'physically' reading a paper is appreciated more by others