As the Globe and Mail prepares to leave northern B.C., print continues its march towards becoming a high-end luxury item.
The Globe and Mail (arguably Canada’s only national newspaper, and at best one of three) announced this week that as of October, it will no longer deliver print editions of its paper to Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as parts of British Columbia. Those parts include my hometown of Prince George.
I get the economics of the decision. Publisher Phillip Crawley says the cost of delivering to these areas was $1.5 million. “It doesn’t make any business sense at all when we can offer those subscribers these alternatives,” he told the Canadian Journalism Project. Instead of eating the costs of physical delivery, the Globe will be offering subsidized subscriptions to their digital editions.
The elimination of print editions in Prince George doesn’t mean I won’t be able to get the news, because I still have access to two local papers, multiple national and international magazines, and radio. Like many others in my demographic, I don’t have television that actually gets channels, but that would also be an option. I also have the internet, which is where I get most of my news (including the Globe) already. For those that don’t have access to the internet at home, there’s work, libraries, and coffee shops. If you don’t have access to libraries or coffee shops you probably didn’t have access to the Globe anyway, since you would have had to go to a grocery store or magazine stand to get it in the first place (there was already no home delivery in the area).
What this does mean is that every once in a while, when I feel like I’m going to have some downtime, I won’t be able to go to a grocery store or newsstand and pick up a weekend edition of the paper with the intention of picking through its pages on a lazy morning.
Like fresh-fish sushi, physical newspapers are becoming a high-end item, and the economics of providing these goods for a northernish town of 80,000 just aren’t there. I have never purchased expensive sushi one out of necessity, because I have other options for nutrition, and I have never purchased newspapers out of the need to be informed. Physical versions of national and international papers are a treat, something I get while travelling through airports and staying at hotels. I get them at times in my life when I’m visiting museums and eating at restaurants that cost more than I can afford.
I view this move by the Globe as one more step on the physical newspaper’s march towards being a pure luxury item, something like records and barbers who provide shaves. Sure, there might be advantages to vinyl, but mp3s are good enough for most people to get most of the music they want, and a Gillette Mach 3 is enough for most men most of the time. And in that reality, there just isn’t enough incentive for someone interested in making money to set up shop in anywhere but the most high-density areas. Cities like Prince George usually don’t get high-end luxury items, and that is what physical editions of national newspapers have become.
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