panorama Greg Beato at Drexel University’s “The Smart Set” blog has a piece on an odd reaction to newspapers’ increasing march to the Internet: the physical newspaper as expensive boutique nostalgia item.

Beato mentions a couple of newspaper publishers who are now or have already put out such papers. Monocle magazine is releasing a $10 60-page “summer newspaper” called Monocle Mediterraneo, which is to be sold at “all the best resorts, from the West Coast to the eastern Med (and the key airports hubs in between).”

In December 2009, literary magazine McSweeney’s produced a designer newspaper called San Francisco Panorama, which was supposed to “make the physical object so beautiful and luxurious that it will seem a bargain at $1.” It ended up weighing in at 320 pages, 350,000 words, and it would have been a bargain at $1—but it ended up costing $5 from newsboys on the street, and $16 from bookstores and newsstands.

The newspaper, Beato suggests with these examples, is on its way to becoming a nostalgia boutique item—a carefully-crafted heirloom, on a par with organic tomatoes or “$90,000 bespoke Jeeps”.

It’s an interesting idea. Over the last few years, a number of people have made the case that e-books are turning (or will eventually turn) paper books into such a thing—but this is the first time I’ve seen anyone make that argument about newspapers. Newspapers are, by definition, disposable, meant to be read and then recycled, thrown away, or used to wrap fish. Who would want an heirloom fish-wrapper?

Of course, even if it turns out some people would, it is doubtful that this will be the salvation of the Rupert Murdochs of the world. The market for expensive heritage items is going to be a lot more limited than the market for the inexpensive everyday version of the item ever was.


  1. I think that’s an interesting idea. Before the Rocky Mountain News went under, they did many multi-part in-depth series that were quite collectible. I have several, some in paper, some in both PDF and paper.

    I think newspapers would be better off focusing on local issues – expand local political news, expand local history series, i.e. an event from the past, where are they now, etc. Expand local sports, every parent with a kid in sports would buy a paper to preserve the report on their kid’s team.

    The national news and commentary is more relevant real-time online.

    I never moved my subscription over to the Denver Post. Most of the news I already see a day or two before, the local coverage isn’t that great, and the non-news content can be obtained online for free – cartoons, sales ads, columnists, etc. It became a waste of paper for me.

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