Goodbye Chronicle

I just did something really hard – called up the San Francisco Chronicle and canceled the home subscription we’ve kept up for more than a decade. Working at a journalism school, I know exactly how difficult things are for newspapers these days, and how there is no online revenue model available that comes anywhere close to replacing revenue from print subscriptions. I really don’t want to pull my financial support, but the print edition just doesn’t make sense for our lifestyles anymore.

I’ve got nothing against the Chronicle. I’ve enjoyed it for years. Granted, we generally  only read it in 5 or 10-minute skim-bursts in the mornings, but I always enjoyed those sessions. Unfortunately, over the past few months, we’ve stopped the skimming too. The sad truth is that right now I’m looking across the room at a week-old stack of unopened newspapers on the kitchen table. We haven’t even taken the rubber bands off a week’s worth of great journalism.

So where has that time gone? Mornings are a whirlwind of pushups and smoothie making, combing the boy’s hair and packing his lunch, going over the day’s plans. And then there’s the morning email – it usually takes close to 45 minutes just to parse all the stuff that comes in overnight, every night. And part of that email time includes skimming the daily email digests I get from NY Times, Washington Post, and the LA Times. It’s not like I’m not getting any news. Just that my lifestyle lends itself so much better to reading news on the computer than in print.

On top of that, my Twitter addiction has made a huge impact. Stories that really matter to me (rather than to the editors at the Chron) find their way to the top through the organic bubbling process of the hive mind. As much as I hate to admit it, I find that spending 15 minutes on Twitter is way more efficient at surfacing great daily reading than any single newspaper (and yes, some of the articles I end up reading will be at the web sites of mainstream media houses). In effect, I’m subscribed to the whole internet – why do I need a dead tree version of just one city’s paper?

Finally, there’s the iPad. We don’t own one – just borrowed one from work a few times. But from those tests, it became quickly apparent that the iPad could give us the best of both worlds. If we could replace all of our print subscriptions (oh yeah – there are five magazine subscriptions in this house that are also going mostly unread) with iPad versions, we’d feel less guilty about the wasted paper, have less clutter, and (ideally) pay much less. We’ll see how that plan pans out.

Chronicle – I love you and support you in principle. But it no longer makes sense to support you with our wallets. So long and thanks for the good times.

4 Replies to “Goodbye Chronicle”

  1. If you like the Chron, you could still subscribe to the web-based edition, as a sign of thanks or patronage for the reporting. I do that for Salon, even though I don’t end up reading it online all that often. I just wish all these publications would just officially convert to 501c3 (they’re not turning profits anyways) so I could write subscriptions off as a donation.

    The Chron has been experimenting with a paywall – last Sunday I noticed at the top of their front page a note that the front page stories would not be available for free online til Tuesday. By itself that’s not likely to pull in many subscribers, but over time it could. But even if it’s not the unique content in the Chron that’s compelling (Mick Lasalle and Tim Goodman are great, though) enough to pay for, donating to help keep local investigative reporting alive would be a good thing.

  2. Scary, and I hate not to be supporting journalism. But I subscribed to the paper version of the NYT for 10 years while living here in the Bay Area, and like you after a while the rubber bands weren’t coming off, so it didn’t make sense to pay for it anymore.

    I recently realized that because I get all my news online, my kid isn’t growing up with newspapers hitting the front stoop every morning as I did. I skimmed the NYT and the Washington Post everyday as a kid, and now do the same nightly, living 3000 miles away. But my kid, although very curious about science and current events, isn’t developing the news habit. Maybe it will come through twitter + facebook?

  3. Brian – We do subscribe to Salon. Not opposed to supporting the Chronicle in principle, but am more interested in a more global reach rather than local. However we will consider supporting when it launches. I like the idea of supporting non-profit journalism.

    Tim – I want to make sure the news habit is firmly planted for our kid, though I don’t see much hope for the future of print, so that habit will have to be online. Hopefully via more avenues than just social networks!

  4. I made the same decision too. While practicality is the main reason for canceling our printed news, the trend of update frequency is also killing it. News is available anytime, anywhere through the facility of hand-held computers. I totally agree with your choices.

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