The Art of Missing (news) – Can Newspapers Afford it?

Monday night, “Lobo-Night”, two worlds that rarely meet clashed (and united) in a concrete paper storage basement of Rhein-Zeitung (full disclosure: – a paper for which I interned and write).

Christan Lindner and Sascha Lobo

Editor in Chief Christian Lindner introduces Sascha Lobo in the paper basement

Sascha Lobo, a famous blogger with a fancy hair cut in Germany met a small crowd to give a quick glance into his plans as “Chefredakteur für einen Tag” (Editor in Chief for one day), the day that the online world would get a chance to “do” paper.

Having no affinity to paper, Lobo was talking about the online world and the online ways of reading news. One of his lessons: What you can learn from the internet is the ability to miss something without having the feeling of missing something. It is simply impossible to process all the information available online.

Joachim Türk explaining the process of newspaper printing. The presses can managa up to 10 newspapers per second.

Editor in Chief Joachim Türk was appalled. This would mean the death of newspapers, he claimed. According to him, a newspaper suggests that it contains all important information of the day that you can’t or should not miss. But how appropriate is this assumption?

Really, by trying the attempt to contain all relevant information or even the suggestion, a newspaper today is bound to fail. And this failure will cause mistrust. “Oh, why didn’t the paper cover this event / debate – they must be doing their job wrong!” While people did not use to receive information from far-away places when communication was limited to non-electronic devices, information is streaming in via various different channels from all over the world now – with the beginning of Twitter almost in real time!

A newspaper cannot, as a principle, achieve to contain all relevant information. And it cannot do so in real time. While print knows a (daily or weekly) deadline, the online world lives under a constant deadline: NOW.

At best, a newspaper can be a filter. But this is not necessarily a problem, it can be a chance for them. Instead of trying to cover everything and failing at that, newspapers can try to use this restructuring of media for their own advantage. Rather than trying to keep up with the news meticulously, papers can use the advantage of trust they still have over the world of bloggers to go deeper into reporting a limited number of topics, topics that are relevant to readers, rather than suggesting to “have it all”.

Making news requires unconventional thinking - and the ability to "miss" certain things

This strategy, however, will require a re-thinking of the concept of a newspaper both by editors and writers. It is a radical way of thinking, but it is one that might save newspapers, if it can bring people to buy the information given by the papers, because readers cannot get the same level of quality and depth anywhere else.

If Lobo achieved his goal of bringing “online” to “paper”, you can judge by yourself. The edition of the paper is available as a download (for free until Thursday). Can you afford to miss it?

  1. thank you for your thoughts and views on this. i would like to add something to the point you make about future strategies: re-thinking is one way to say it, re-discover or re-brand is another – by widening their focus and trying to cover a broad range of topics (i.e. do what other media can do better…), regional newspapers are betting their ranches. returning to their roots – the local niche – is part of saving their usp. moreover, i would argue that scarcity is rather a strength than a weakness…i find myself spending hours and hours on the net and losing myself in cyberspace – in that respect i find newspapers more ‘manageable’ 😉

    • H
    • May 19th, 2010

    …and the foot in the one picture is unconventional photography? 😉

    I agree with Lobo though, newspapers should not claim they have all the relevant information, especially since I myself have to read at least 3 papers online to get the feeling of covering “everything relevant”.

  2. Update in terms of everything relevant:
    I’m about to hit 1000 unread Emails! I used to read every single mail I got! I’ve got more time for important stuff now! Yay!

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