What do our customers think?

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This interview is part of a series of conversations with news consumers. All of the interviews are compiled here. Want to be interviewed? Sign up here. Have a question to suggest that I should be asking the interviewees? Tweet me. Have comments or questions for me or anyone I’ve talked to? Myself and my interview subjects welcome your comments on this or any other interview in the series.

This week’s news consumer is Andrew Hazlett, 39 years old and residing in Baltimore. Yes, that’s the same Baltimore that’s depicted in the single greatest television show of all time. It’s a good thing Andrew is having a busy week, because if not for that I would be peppering him with questions too embarrassing to mention here.

Andrew is a father, husband, blogger and podcaster. He has, as he put it, a “precocious 3.5 year old daughter” and his household income which I’m not at liberty to disclose is solidly middle class. As I’ve stressed before, this is the type of news consumer publishers should be courting. He’s also a former government bureaucrat, another factoid that elicits a million questions which he is again very lucky to escape (at least for the time being).

Learn more about Andrew here or follow him on Twitter like I do. 

Shall we get down to business? Yes, I think so. As per usual, the questions are in bold, the answers follow and any linking is mine.

How have your news consumption habits changed over the years or have they stayed about the same?

I used to read a lot of print magazines and at least one newspaper daily. There are a couple of magazines I still get on paper (The Atlantic, The New Criterion, and, oddly, Wired), but all the rest of my magazine article reading is now online.

For a few months after 9/11 I watched a lot of cable news (rotating between biases on the various networks so I could triangulate some accuracy). It has been years since I had any desire to watch any news content on TV or cable.

I shifted to reading news entirely online more than ten years ago, though I’ve paid for things like Times Select [now defunct] and I continue to pay for an online subscription to the Wall Street Journal.

Where do you usually get your news from on a daily basis? Specify print, online or otherwise for each source you list.

No more print for daily news at all.

Online: 

Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, NPR.org

Many, many blogs, magazine websites, and aggregators like Arts & Letters Daily

IP video, podcasts, and other “A/V” sources: TWiT.tv, Bloggingheads.tv, Between the Covers book podcast from National Review Online, and more.

Twitter, Facebook, a couple hundred RSS feeds via Google Reader

[Also some terrestrial radio (while in car): WYPR 88.1 FM (Baltimore NPR)]

What are the things you are most interested in reading about? Are those needs being met by what’s available to you?

Arts and culture, books, the terror war, India, history, nature and science discoveries. For the most part, I have access to far more than I could ever read or watch/listen to… there are some gaps, however.

What is your number one complaint about the news media? This can be general or really specific.

Insect-size attention span; also wayyyyyy too much emotion, not enough reason, logic, context, sense of history, or respect for differing principles driving today’s debates and conflicts. [This continues to be a theme through all the interviews thus far. News producers, please hear this. Your customers want more in-depth coverage and they want you to stay with the story longer.]

Do you currently pay for any news content online? If yes, describe what type of content it is. If no, would you be willing to pay any amount for news content online?

I pay for the Wall Street Journal online and make NPR donations, but I would also pay for a handful of other sources, including the New York Times. [Take heart! While past interviewees have not said that they would pay for content, we can see that not every digitally savvy consumer is a member of the Cult of Free. Let me just say that I love free content and I believe in ad supported content. But the new advertising platforms are not coming soon enough for all publishers. Charging for premium, high-quality content should be an option.]

3 Comments

  1. Craig Newman August 2, 2010

    Anna, as always, interesting insight here.
    I, too, believe people are generAlly wiling to pay for quality – though the content squatters are always going to be there.
    The onus remains on “the media” of course to do two things: A) continue to strive for quality reporting and B) figure out a sustainable advertising structure that provides not only a revenue source, but also a platform that works for the advertiser and the audience. So, nothing too hard, you know.
    As long as we have a news consuming public like Andrew, though, I like our chances. Or, at least am cautiously optimistic.

  2. Anna Tarkov August 2, 2010

    Agreed. However, I wish I could say we are to the point of everyone at least being on the same page and agreeing that we need to do A, B and C. Of course if you’ve been reading all my posts here and the writing of many, many others, you know that we’re not quite there yet. We still have people in the print media who are unnecessarily hostile to digital (I’m sure more than one in your own newsroom). We still have people in digital who are, perhaps unreasonably, hostile towards print. We still have digital treated as the ugly stepchild in many traditionally print news orgs. And as our earlier Twitter convo hinted at, we still have people confused about the difference between giving the customer what s/he wans and giving the customer what generates the most ad revenue.

  3. Andrew Hazlett August 4, 2010

    To mention a few other thoughts…
    I wouldn’t say that I’m exactly eager to “volunteer” payments for maintenance of newspapers as an end in themselves.

    However, I’d gladly pay for writing from John Burns and Dexter Filkins, for instance… or the crime and city government coverage offered by my own hometown Baltimore Sun. The question is how?

    * * *

    On a related note, I recommend this article from GigaOm contributor Matthew Ingram (a former Globe & Mail reporter) published a “widely re-tweeted” piece on paywalls (included Times Select) that seems to pour a lot of cold water on the whole notion: http://gigaom.com/2010/08/02/hey-newspaper-paywall-fans-news-is-not-like-hbo-or-talk-radio/

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