The newspaper-less experiment: 99 days to go…

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It has been 266 days since I read a newspaper as part of an experiment which began on 1 January 2010 to see what kind of impact it would have on me as a comms professional and average Joe.

I haven’t written about it for a while (explained in this post), but with 99 days left in 2010, I thought it was time for an update.
Ready? OK…

My headlines suck and I am late on ‘news’
Here are some of the conclusions I’ve already made as a result of this experiment:

  • It’s harder to come up with tabloid-esque headlines – the way headlines are written online compared to in a newspaper is very different. Newspaper headlines aim to catch your eye on a page where as online headlines have an element of SEO built-in. Not reading papers everyday has stopped that flow of eye-catching examples coming to me and it has had an impact of my ability to craft pun-filled headlines…which may be a blessing…
  • Did you see that… – I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve sat at my desk and piped up with “Wow, did you hear about the…” before being stopped by “Yes! That was on page 3 yesterday.” Online news may be more instant, but it is infinite, and can easily be missed. As an average Joe that isn’t a huge issue, but as a comms consultant, not being aware of some important major events isn’t ideal.
  • Newspaper readers are enjoying something special – each morning on the way to work I have to stop myself from reading headlines over someone’s shoulder. It is almost like everyone has been invited to a party I can’t go to. This seems to bother me more when I catch a partial glimpse of a headline that I want to know more about. Torture is a strong word, but it’s close.
  • Awareness of mainstream trends…or lack thereof – I got asked by someone in the office a couple weeks back about ‘what are the hot trends in fashion for men right now’ – my answers to questions like this are normally pretty weak but I was always able to refer to a report from a recent Sunday lift-out that provided some help. That isn’t the case today, I really have no idea what is hot and what’s not on a mainstream level…or a any level for that matter.
  • I’ve become disconnected with sports I used to love – there is always the argument that newspapers need sport more than sport needs newspapers. After nine months of my interest in Premier League football declining quite rapidly, I its a pretty even race. The back pages each morning were my catch up, the way I stayed up to date. Without that put in front of me each morning, I am less inclines to proactively take an interest.
  • My purchasing decision making process has changed – I have always been ‘good’ at making impulsive decisions based on things I read in the newspaper, especially things I wouldn’t normally be actively interested in. Nine months into this experiment, and these impulsive triggers have been replaced entirely by human recommendations, and to some extent, Twitter. 
  • Celebrity ho-hum-ness – celebrities never really made be buy newspapers, but now they completely turn me off them. I don’t really care who Wayne Rooney is sleeping with, and that predictable line of ‘shock’ journalism doesn’t make me want to know more, it makes me want to know less.
  • Online news is more distracting during work hours – I think getting your fill of news on the train each morning gives you a feeling of ‘being up to speed’ with the events of the world. If you take that away, any hunger for that needs to be replaced, and has contributed to me getting less done during the day as I get more easily distracted by Twitter and what not. 

What is the key take-out then?

If I was to do this experiment again, I would have aimed to enlist someone to do the opposite to me so some comparisons could be made between the two worlds.

As it has been so long since I actually read a newspaper, I’ve almost forgotten what role they did play, hence a lack of updates on this experiment of late. 
The major take out after nine months is this:

“Big brands that rely on the mass carrying them can’t ignore new channels because without the daily connection provided by newspapers, you can lose interest pretty quickly.”

What do you think of the big brand disconnect theory?
Does anything else strike you as particularly interesting?
I’d love to know what you think.
Adam
Note: One question I get asked a lot is whether or not I’ll return to reading newspapers again in 2011. I’m not going to decide until the experiment has been completed but this post gives you a pretty good indication as to whether they have an important role to play or not.

2 Comments

  • Reply September 24, 2010

    Shane Jacob

    Great update Adam! what is interesting to note is how hard it is to keep track of the news stream on areas that interest you or areas that your immediate community would be interested in. I assume you would be more in tune with larger trends/fads than what is happening closer to you? What is also interesting is how your purchase decisions have changed it would be great if you could share more on

  • Reply September 27, 2010

    charlotteclark

    That's a pretty interesting experiment you're conducting. As someone who also works in social media I find it quite challenging to read all of my news online. I tend to try and switch off from it on trains and at home. During the day I read the London freebies, use news websites, and follow links on Twitter and other social sites regularly.

    I agree I would miss a lot of

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