I’ve been reading The Guardian since 1978: the year the winter of discontent started and the first test tube baby was born. As a 1980s student I endured days when the paper never appeared because of strikes and days when photos were so badly printed they were impossible to discern. Today’s paper is a miracle in colour – and the writing is as glorious as ever – yet I’m cancelling my subscription.
But this is no act of infidelity. I’ve decided after two years that the Guardian’s iPad edition is perfect for me. I prefer pixels to print, at least during the working week. I can read the ‘paper’ at the breakfast table in San Francisco and Sirmione as well as at home in our Buckinghamshire village without looking for a newsagent. I don’t have to recycle yesterday’s paper. And my fingers don’t get mucky with newsprint.
I made the decision after weeks of never buying the print edition with my subscriber’s vouchers. Most days, I read the iPad edition over lunch at my desk at work, avoiding the queue at WH Smith for the printed paper. I couldn’t see the point of spending almost £40 a month for the print subscription when I could get the digital version for around a quarter of the price.
I’ll still buy the printed Guardian on Saturdays. Weekends are different, and Karen and I enjoy sharing the weekend paper – I devour the opinions and sports sections, while she enjoys Family and Travel. (We both love the Weekend magazine.)
The Guardian is special. It stands out from the overwhelmingly authoritarian, right wing British national press. It has been a digital pioneer, although it was slow to introduce an iPad edition. Like many, I wonder how long it will maintain a print edition. Yet I’ve surprised myself. When I started reading the Guardian, Times and Telegraph on my iPad, I thought printed newspapers had a unique appeal that would endure. Now I’m not so sure.
Britain’s papers have embraced the iPad. The broadsheets have become pixel publishers, yet it’s not clear how much money they’re making from their digital editions. But there are two brutal truths: they cannot survive on print alone. And giving away content for free online threatens everything. It will be fascinating to see how this story develops over the next few years.