Front page blues

Lockport Union Sun & JournalSometimes, I get frustrated by the local paper. I’ve been known to rag on their errors – typos, misspellings, and technical errors – but by and large, they are like most businesses that are trying to survive on a small local scale against the mega-conglomerate competition. The fact that they continue to try, day after day, in this heroic struggle, is often under-appreciated and taken for granted by us, who see only the flaws.

Scott Leffler, local talk-show host and former US&J reporter, has been putting the thumbnail-sized images of all the local papers on his blog on a daily basis. It’s interesting to see the similarities and differences between them as they often cover the same stories.

It’s especially interesting when you consider that three of the papers, the Lockport paper, the Niagara Gazette and the Tonawanda News all are owned by the same company and share much of the same staff and infrastructure. They often carry the same stories by the same reporter, but the placement on the page is interesting to note. Top of the front page in Lockport might be a sidebar in the Tonawandas…

But the thumbnail is only half of the story. When you visit the actual Lockport Union Sun webpage and click on it, you can see a PDF of the entire front page for the day. I was looking at it today, while waiting for the print version to be delivered, and thought to myself, it was a really nice way to read the paper. The colors were bright, the white background was white, not newsprint, and I could shrink or expand it to whatever size I wanted. It was to me, just a better way to read the paper. Better yet, I didn’t need to unroll it and iron it to get it to lay flat after the delivery person wrapped it in a rubber band…

Unfortunately, the only thing available is the front page. Even the continuation of an article is missing. It’s a terrible tease to make you want the whole paper, but you can’t have it. It just isn’t available.

Many articles are available on the web site, but – and I don’t know their policy – they seem to be older articles. Today’s news seems to be held back for the print version.

While I wish for the entire paper in the PDF format, the profit mechanism is still tied to the old paper paradigm. As long as the subscription mechanism is tied to the print version of the paper, we won’t see it online in a timely fashion.

I guess some papers have tried online subscriptions. Some have failed and given up on it. Some people, who think nothing of popping several quarters into a paperbox, then leaving it in the coffee shop every morning, resist subscribing online. They just don’t want to pay for something intangible. Yet, they will fill up their iPod at 99-cents a song on iTunes…

I recently heard about an article where someone compared the cost of printing and delivery of the New York Times to the electronic distribution and the study claimed that they could give every regular subscriber an Amazon Kindle for far less than it cost them to deliver the paper in a year. So some people are getting it.

But I really liked the PDF and the Kindle is black and white only. (at least for now) It’s a shame that there isn’t a electronic subscription. It might hurt some paperboys, but frankly, paperboys aren’t what they used to be anyway. You can’t count on them anymore. They collect when they feel like it and then you’re eight weeks behind and they deliver sporadically as well. I don’t even know my delivery person. I think his father is delivering the paper most days…

I was a paperboy when I was a kid. For the little they make at it today, I can see why most kids don’t want to be bothered.

Posted in Lockport, Rants, Tech Stuff, WNY

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