Jack Shafer writes about why he cancelled his New York Times subscription, and then forked over too much money to get it back. Mostly, he said, it’s because it’s not the news without the paper paper:
The researchers found that the print folks “remember significantly more news stories than online news readers”; that print readers “remembered significantly more topics than online newsreaders”; and that print readers remembered “more main points of news stories.” When it came to recalling headlines, print and online readers finished in a draw.
Although the number of readers tested in the study is small—just 45—the paper confirms my print-superiority bias, at least when it comes to reading the Times. The paper explores several theories for why print rules. Online newspapers tend to give few cues about a storys importance, and the “agenda-setting function” of newspapers gets lost in the process. “Online readers are apt to acquire less information about national, international and political events than print newsreaders because of the lack of salience cues; they generally are not being told what to read via story placement and prominence—an enduring feature of the print product,” the researchers write. The paper finds no evidence that the “dynamic online story forms” you know, multimedia stuff have made stories more memorable.
The key thing here, I think, is the importance of context clues. Big headlines mean “please read this, this is important!” There’s not a good way to do that online, especially not at any kind of scale; every story is the same online, and that’s just not right. We need the Times to tell us what’s important, and how important it is.