Users vs. readers

Roberto Guareschi (formerly the editor-in-chief of the daily Clarín) did a story (Sunday, the 19th, Ideas, Page 84) regarding the longevity of print versions of daily newspapers compared to the increasing use of the on-screen version, and he announced the next step to the digital edition of the New York Times. Yes, everyone has already read something about that transition, but the change should be tiny, right?

The choice of words of our colleague, Guareschi, is interesting when he says, “The most important factor will be economic; the print editions will continue until they’re no longer viable.” Even if the comment is undoubtedly true, it is difficult to see myself as an “economic factor,” instead of the “reader.” (Remember Margaret Thatcher who, during the 80’s, referred to citizens or voters as “customers,” which they undoubtedly were.)

Guareschi is referring to “users” and not to readers. I don’t like the idea of “using” a newspaper or a book, I prefer to read them. And it is very difficult for me to “read” a long article much less a book, on a screen. But anyhow, technology changes the already established language.

Reinforcing the idea that the paper versions need to continue, the ONG of street people (meaning the homeless), celebrated its ten-year existence with the publication, Made in Buenos Aires (inspired by the London-originated street people magazine BIG ISSUE), a monthly 32- page magazine produced by the social organization that Patricia Merkin has directed since its beginning. The magazine is sold by authorized persons on many streets in Buenos Aires and the interior. The cover price is 4 pesos, each vendor pays 1.20 pesos for it, and the remaining 2.80 is income. They celebrated their first decade anniversary at the Padelai (formerly a Children’s Home run by charities), which is now the Cultural Center of Spain in Buenos Aires, Balcarce and San Juan. There were panels (discussion groups), conversations, art expositions and music on the patio of the building, which awaits a recycling budget.

It is possible to argue that if the publications were to continue, the edition size would be reduced, as what appeals most to the reader is merely headline recognition.

The event prompted the news, commented by newspaperman Miguel Grinberg (formerly with La Opinión and Crítica, now defunct daily newspapers), that a group of approximately thirty survivors of the newspaper founded by Jorge Lanata, and only existing briefly, would form a cooperative to launch a national weekly newspaper, distributed by cooperative produced publications. They thought about continuing with the name “Crítica,” but in an effort to avoid legal conflicts, the new newspaper will be “Cítrica,” which sounds very sixtyish, but can also be fun.

This column was originally published in PERFIL on Sept. 26, 2010.

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