On Record: Staying out of trouble

As a journalist, I’ve been watching the “demise” of newspapers with intense interest. Print is out, the publishers of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer have declared, launching their online-only edition in March. Denver became a one-newspaper town in late February with the closing of the Rocky Mountain News, and the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press are now offering home delivery just three days of week.

All of this angst is an effort to try to figure out not only what you want to read, but how you want to read. Or should I say “get information,” since straight reading seems to be a lost art these days.

“If you’re not experimenting, you’re in trouble,” said Rocky Mountain News Editor John Temple the day his paper published its final edition. While the following definitely falls under the definition of small-step experimentation, it’s indicative of the things we have to consider in this new world order.

We’ve been offering the digital version of Equipment World for 18 months. Quite frankly, what seemed a pleasant add-on those few months ago is now gaining importance. Like our newspaper brethren we too are facing advertising declines that limit the number of editorial pages we can give you. But there are no such limits with our digital version. And so, beginning with this month, we’re offering our first digital-edition-only editorial: Filters in a greener world – How to change your filter regimen in response to biodiesel, ULSD, emissions regulations and new engines. You can find it at www.equipmentworlddigital.com.

Sure, we’ll also put this on our website, but frankly, I find our digital magazine to be a more compelling read, especially since it’s been designed by our expert art director, Andrew Anderson. Even with this slight change, we have to keep in mind that not all of you like or are even attracted to the digital world. (One contractor in a focus group we conducted last year complained because project owners were forcing him to use email.)

But the trade magazine business has to keep an eye on the newspaper industry’s efforts to scramble for a new revenue template. My local newspaper just sent me a well-deserved thank-you card: I’m the dinosaur in this debate – my Cheerios aren’t complete without the day’s edition spread out by the bowl.

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And yet I have to admit the experience would be a whole lot more convenient if I had what I envision: a souped-up, larger version of the Kindle digital reader combined with iPhone touch technology. I could download that day’s edition, and with a flick of my finger navigate around the screen on a thin, lightweight device. Laptops aren’t nearly this fun yet.

A Pew Research Center survey released last month found just 27 percent of those born later than 1976 had read a newspaper the previous day. Even though magazines are a different medium, we’re still charged with appealing to readers – both present and future.