I started working in the newspaper industry in 1977. Imagine my delight this past Christmas morning when I discovered that newspapers are still being printed 100 years later, in 2077.
This according to Fallout 4, my kids’ latest video game set in post-apocalyptic Boston. A suburban mom and dad are seen reading a copy of The Boston Bugle at the beginning of the game. There are also five Bugle news articles from 2077 that offer important clues to players throughout the game. In the downtown area known as The Commonwealth, there is even a Boston Bugle building, which is protected by a lone security guard called a “protectron.” According to Fallout 4 gamers, protectrons are “typically seen in office-type settings, their secondary programming is modular, making them useful as greeters, ticket collectors, bartenders, celebrity or historical figure impersonators, even sexual partners.”
How cool is that?
I use Fallout 4 as an excuse to get on my soapbox at our Christmas dinner table and talk about “the enduring power of print.” My kids look at me like I’m some kind of hot lead Luddite. And, they have no idea what hot lead is.
Still, I persevere. I’m like a radscorpion attacking a piece of mutfruit (that’s the Fallout equivalent of a dog with a bone.)
Three weeks into the new calendar year, I am able to cite one real world example proving that ink-based newspapers are very much alive and in the game.
Bostonians, Rituals and Loyalty
We live in a pre-apocalyptic Boston suburb. Like so many of our neighbors, we are going through the pains associated with our hometown newspaper’s switchover to a new delivery system. Lots of lessons to be learned here, kids, about the importance of good customer service, transparency, quality control, and strong project management. And, about how a high-performing team will step in when necessary to do whatever it takes to help resolve a crisis—including journalists, editors and lots of other Boston Globe staff members delivering newspapers door-to-door like we did when we were your age.
Sure, there’s bound to be some fallout (ouch!) from this Boston Globe home delivery fiasco. But, the frustration and anger expressed by so many Globe readers goes to show how vital the morning newspaper is to our daily routines. Newspapers matter. People care about their paper and they get really upset when it doesn’t arrive on their front porch.
Look at what one longtime Boston Globe subscriber says in an interview with WBZ, a local TV station: “You fall into a habit of opening the door and finding the newspaper.” This guy sounds like me on my soapbox. “Nothing wrong with doing it online,” he continues. “But it must be a sign of age that I prefer to turn an actual piece of paper than read a paper with a mouse in hand.”
Even the Boston Globe CEO acknowledges this fiercely awesome reader loyalty in a mea culpa article describing the delivery problems: “For a company that’s about to invest a lot of money in a print production facility in Taunton, it’s a reaffirmation of how important the print product is and is going to be for a long time. We learned how many people in this market for whom the Globe is their link to the outside world.”
I know what you’re thinking now, kids. Traditional media companies like La Presse in Canada just this week shut off the printing press after 131 years. Except for Saturdays, the newspaper is now produced entirely in digital form on the LaPresse+ digital app for mobile, tablet and desktop readers. Surely this watershed moment marks the wave of the future.
Yeah, but. At the risk of sounding like a Newsprint Protectron, you cannot underestimate people’s passion for ink on paper. Print readers love print. They love the routine of turning a page and the serendipity of discovering something new or unexpected. They love a reading experience that’s not interrupted with pop-up banners or takeover ads. And, as a recent New York Times research project found, “Print readers come in all ages…the affinity they have for print is astronomical.”
Chew on that piece of mutfruit for a while. And, stop rolling your eyes.
Peter Marsh is the VP Marketing, Newscycle Solutions. Daily Miracle 2.0 discusses the challenges, opportunities, trends and technologies impacting news media companies in the evolution from daily ink-on-paper products to round-the-clock digital offerings delivered in print, online, on tablets, and across mobile and emerging channels.