Newspapers are facing an existential crisis. It’s not about content; it’s about how they get to the reader’s doorstep.
Gone are the days when the delivery man would drop a bottle of milk, along with a copy of the morning paper, rightly called the Post or the Morning Post, outside your flat, the two being indispensable items on your breakfast table.
We still have the milk for breakfast, but we turn to our mobile phone or iPad for news.
I learned recently that one local daily was asked to refund its subscribers because the company hired to deliver its copies would suspend its service.
Fewer and fewer people now want home delivery of their favorite morning paper, and so hiring someone to do the home delivery is becoming more and more unjustifiable.
A newspaper publisher offers coupons that could be redeemed at 7-Eleven, but if people would bother to go to a convenience store, why would they need home delivery of their newspaper in the first place?
Newspaper home delivery is still available for those who live at the Peak or expatriate districts like Stanley and Clear Water Bay, although there’s a markup.
Most office workers who use the MTR for their daily commute have no problem getting their morning dose of news: they could have as many as five or six different free tabloids to read and/or give to the elderly recyclers waiting for their copies outside the station.
In the office, there’s also an array of newspapers to choose from, although reading the newspaper there is not as satisfying as doing it at home; besides, the boss might think you’re loafing.
But one has to admit that reading the news on an iPad or mobile phone is less enjoyable because one doesn’t get the pleasure of holding the newsprint in their hands, of turning the pages, of seeing the overall newspaper design.
As for home delivery, newspaper publishers are likely to turn to technology such as the use of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, or even robots, to do the job.
But tech itself is being blamed for the loss of interest in newspaper subscriptions. The South China Morning Post used to have a circulation of over 100,000 copies for more than 20 years. Apple Daily, on the other hand, saw its printed copies fall drastically to 100,000 from a peak of 400,000.
For many locals, the loss of home delivery is not a big problem. Many senior citizens still enjoy their dim sum, sitting in the same seat and reading the same newspaper every morning.
For youngsters, they don’t read newspapers, anyway. They’re happy as long as Facebook still survives.
For the rest of us, we still go downstairs every morning to buy a copy of our favorite daily.
For no more than HK$10 a day, we become a part of that dwindling community, the minority who still read and care about the printed word.
We are what we read.
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