Celebrity boobs and other news

9 October 2012 | Non-fiction, Tales of a journalist

Illustration: Joonas Väänänen

Anyone can find the latest news and the vital information he or she requires – latest pictures of some celebrity’s breasts, the reasons why men cheat on their wives – immediately from the Internet. Jyrki Lehtola takes a look at why the printed media are in trouble

We are living in an age of newspaper death. Several publications have already closed up shop in Finland just this autumn. The most notable of these was Finland’s oldest and most influential teen magazine, Suosikki (‘Favourite’), which had been in circulation for some 52 years.

This was where several generations, particularly the boys of several generations, got all of their information about sex, where they learned how to tape posters to their walls without them peeling off, where they got information about rock stars’ drug use and favourite foods and where they learned that even if something can be expressed with a period, expressing it with an exclamation point is still preferable.

When times changed, Suosikki changed too. It moved from being a biographer of rock stars to following trash culture and the residents of Big Brother houses; it gave advice about makeup and told all about sex, sex and sex. In the old Suosikki, one could occasionally find proper articles about rock musicians, but the times forced a shift to a level of superficiality where the only relevant aspects of a musician’s career were personality traits, wild parties, a difficult childhood, drugs and how much the star loved Finland (they almost always did).

However, in the end times changed too much, and the publisher has announced that Suosikki will publish its final issue in December: which is understandable since information about sex, revealing pictures of pop stars and most albums themselves are accessible in greater amounts, more quickly and in higher resolution on the Internet.

Why doesn’t the rest of the media understand this? Why follow Suosikki into the same deep, dark pit?

We have all probably had this litany preached at us ad nauseam:

Print publications are doing poorly. They are not at all prepared for the current media revolution, and if they have attempted to prepare, they have done so in the wrong ways. The audience is getting used to receiving a certain kind of content from the Internet: content that is fast, free and does not leave any ink on your fingers.

This content is light, similar to a Suosikki magazine for all ages, giving you something to click on when your blood sugar momentarily falls too low during the workday.

It is information about how women achieve orgasm, why men cheat in marriage, how Kim Kardashian’s breasts looked in her low-cut evening gown at the big gala last night, how to lose weight and with what diet, how to make goat cheese pizza, and what celebrity cheated on his wife with what other celebrity.

Perfectly valid information which leaves the reader wiser and more skilled.

So can anyone explain to me why the print media has decided to compete with that content by jamming its pages full of the same thing, by changing itself from light entertainment to featherweight entertainment?

That kind of content comes from the Internet willy-nilly. Why would you publish Kim Kardashian’s breasts – we already saw those yesterday.

You can’t compete with the Internet by pretending to be the Internet. It just won’t work if you are updated on paper once a day. You just use up money and time, neither of which traditional media has in endless supply

Perhaps no other options exist. We’re moving toward certain destruction here, but at least with Kim Kardashian’s picture to look at. But we could make a go of it and try some other direction as long as we can.

Circulation numbers are not growing anymore, and as they decline, advertisers flee, forcing reductions in advertising fees. Publishing houses respond to this by making their content more facile, slimming it down, doing things like on the Internet.

Perhaps no one wants that anymore. Perhaps the endless content of the Internet, the thousands of different ways of telling about the world and reacting to the world, is not creating generations who read more poorly or with less concentration, but rather generations who are more discerning, who read carefully, who want more unexpected, fresher content.

Just look at Facebook status updates or tweets. Frequently their aim, often quite successful, is to make readers laugh and through that laughter to trigger new thoughts.

When was the last time you laughed reading your morning paper?

Translated by Owen Witesman

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