The Shack, by William P. Young
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High Gas Prices will Lead to More Digital Content Consumption...

Old gas pump That's what Steve Rubel says in this recent blog post.  I don't necessarily disagree with him but I think high gas prices will lead to more scrutiny of all purchases, not just print content.

Steve's blog post specifically mentions newspapers and magazines.  My sense is that when subscribers abandon these products they're switching to free digital alternatives, not paid ones.  I say that partially because it's the model I've personally been following; I used to subscribe to at least a dozen different magazines and now I'm down to about 3 or 4, for example.  On the other hand, I've picked up a paid subscription to The New York Times on my Kindle, so I'm not totally going the free route, but that's the lone exception.

The simple truth is that all household expenditures are under more of a microscope with gas prices at or above $4/gallon.  The pessimists will predict declines in all the various print/publishing industries.  Opportunistic publishers, on the other hand, will seize the moment, realizing there's never been a better time to introduce prospective customers to digital content offerings.

Think free samples, full access time trials, etc., or whatever it takes to get your product in front of a potential reader.  Hey, I never thought I'd be willing to pay $13.99/month for The New York Times on my Kindle; I tried their sample though and quickly became a convert!


Anita Windisman

Your post is along the lines of another recent blog entry (July 6, 2008) I read on the Amateur Economists' site entitled "Gas Prices: Print Media's #1 Enemy" ( Similarly, they make the case that with increasing gas prices taking a chunk out of the family budget, that other discretionary expenses will suffer. Namely, that the first thing consumers will cut back on are magazines and newspapers - and go to free digital sources. And when the economic slump is finished, who knows whether these digital converts will go back to paper.


I don't know about this. It is still fairly easy for a lot of us to go down to our local library and pick up a book. People will be using free sources a lot more than paying for things.

I don't think people will cut back on their reading habits (or obsessions). I think it is more likely people will look to get things for free or cheap.

If they don't have to pay for the online news they will read it instead of newspapers. I think online news is superior to the newspaper. There is a lag of only a few minutes between when something appears online compared to practically a full day for the newspapers. This makes a huge difference. I prefer CNN and Yahoo for the most part. I still read the local paper for local news.

I would rather read quick bursts of information online. I have never liked reading magazines because they seem ephemeral and date too quickly. The difference with the internet is that the ephemeral is very current.

I don't want to read full books online unless they are free. The experience of reading a long book online is quite tiresome. I think people read much more slowly online, the resolution of the text in books is much higher, and people don't like scrolling through lots of material. A website is like a wonderful billboard perfect for magazine type and news articles but not books.

There are a few exceptions. Occassionally when I feel the urge, I might read the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times, but only three or four times a month. This is a true in depth experience because of the layout which cannot be experienced online. Also the drawings of people in the Wall Street Journal don't translate well online. However, the cheap local papers like the Daily News or Post are complete throwaways and could just as easily be read online.

I like the physicality of having a book in front of me. I enjoy paper. I know this is a bit odd. But a long book is better for me to read in the physical form. Also, I read comics or graphic novels quite often and long book length comics are just not as fun to read on the web. They are much better to read in print, especially if they have a lot of color images.

So I follow the dichotomy of books in the physical form, and news and short articles online.

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