Saturday, July 18, 2009

Another endangered feature of newspapers

As I wrote a while back, we switched to four-day-a-week home delivery of the Globe, which has worked out quite well -- it's really a treat now when I get to fondle an actual paper over coffee -- but the one thing for which I couldn't get my daily fix was the comics. The Globe happens to have the best and largest selection of comics I've ever seen. As of a year or two ago, they're nicely packaged (in print) in the "g" tabloid color magazine insert, which also has the arts and living sections. But on Monday through Wednesday, what's a girl to do? All the strips are on one website or another, but who wants to do that much clicking? The Globe's website, boston.com, has a link to a so-called comics page but it's obviously been completely neglected -- it has a few lame comics that don't even run in the paper.

What I did was pony up $11 a year to gocomics.com to get a daily email with many of my favorite strips embedded -- just a gentle turn of the scrolling button on my mouse is all I have to do. (The only remaining problem is that there are a few of my favorite strips that gocomics.com doesn't license, so I still have to click around for a few of them three days a week, at least for now.) This is a business model I can totally live with. I have no idea if it's profitable for them, but I certainly think that $11 a year is a reasonable amount to pay for saving the labor of going to a lot of individual sites and pages -- even though the comics are still free on those pages (though you can't see archived strips for free). As of yet, papers haven't found a way to create an added value that people would be willing to pay for, since the content is already free and easily accessible. Maybe papers should deconstruct their websites' usability -- make it harder to find and read what you're looking for, even though all the content is online for free, so people would be willing to pay a bit to have it all nearly packaged and delivered to them with a pretty bow.

Here's Doonesbury's take on it from a couple of days ago:

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