Something weird happened when I became a Sunday New York Times home delivery subscriber this fall, and it wasn't just that a 28-year-old person willingly exchanged perfectly good American dollars for the paper version of print media's oldest available dinosaur.
- NOT PICTURED: Unbridled joy.
It was this: Suddenly, I was in demand. High-brow print publications came clamoring, presumably seeking my millennial eyes, offering subscriptions at extremely low rates, without much explanation. A half-year subscription to The New Yorker, whose cover price is $7.99, could be mine for $25. The Atlantic beat out The New Yorker, offering me a year of all the Ta-Nehisi Coates essays I could want, in print, for $10! Even The Economist doffed its hat, which is when I stopped furiously subscribing myself to magazines, because I won't even pretend that I might actually read that one.
When the first offer arrived—it was the one from The New Yorker—the accompanying letter was vague enough that I thought there was a chance I was getting some kind of industry rate (why I thought this about a magazine that includes umlauts* in its style guide and poems in every issue—and clearly survives on subscriptions from writers—is beyond me). But as the publications rushed in, being under 30 seemed to be the only explanation.
Quick poll! How many people do you know who still get a newspaper delivered to their house? Of those people, how many work in print media? And of those people, how many are under 30?
You see what I'm getting at: It's profoundly weird that I subscribe to the Sunday New York Times. I don't know anyone else under 30 who does this, not even among my friends who are writers, which is most of them. But the Sunday Times is a small luxury that always makes my week appreciably better, plus I consider it a good practice to read the newspaper industry's accepted gold standard consistently. And I like reading it in print.
If indeed The New Yorker and The Atlantic are counting on my print fixation to move freely from the Times to almost any other print publication, they're not wrong. But I can't imagine that appealing to print freaks like myself is the best way to court a millennial audience. I say this because I'm an outlier and I know it. I love print media with a steadfastness that is honestly pretty anomalous even among print media professionals. I probably would have subscribed to those other publications eventually at full price anyway (I almost certainly will now, so there's that, old friends). But most millennials I know don't read things in print. And why would they? You can read whatever you want online, and though the cost differential of getting past a paywall versus signing up for a print subscription can be pretty negligible (you're still ponying up no matter what, and sometimes the two are even bundled—BE STILL MY HEART), if you're used to reading on a computer or tablet, there's no reason to wait around just for the tactile pleasure of newsprint under your fingernails.
So, I say we should all put this to the test! If you're under 30, subscribe to one weird print publication, and see if another doesn't show up at your doorstep, like a confused time-traveler from the golden age of print media, looking into your young face, asking to be loved.
*They have another name, and The New Yorker seems to hate it when people call them umlauts. But, sorry, do YOU know what diaeresis means?