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Once upon a time, the average american father would rise and have breakfast at the table with his children, courtesy of mom. Kids would play with what they got in the cereal box and dad would read the paper. This of course happening before the dawn of the internet and smartphones as people no longer eat breakfast or sit together in the morning. Common stuff like checking the ticker for Eastman Kodak every morning, and getting the global happenings from that ink-laden newsprint was habitual. It worked great in the era of our grandparents, for the generation that came after them, and for part of our stint. Heck, I remember battling the newspaper on the train going to my government internship every morning. Hands dirty but informed, so I thought. Wasn’t into the Catholic dailies or weeklies then. Just kept shelling over money for the secular stuff. It really sucks when newspaper rubs against a crisp white dress shirt.

Out of nowhere the world woke up with a smartphone in its hand. You didn’t have to fork over money for periodicals anymore. With a decent phone and mobile data plan you could look-up any piece of news for “free”. As quickly as the smartphone is arriving the printed periodical is disappearing. Great. Who cares. One medium is giving way to another. Centuries ago Gutenberg arrived and disrupted things the way mobile is doing today. He created a way for everyone to get their hands on books. Smartphones add to that by giving everyone the entirety of the world’s information at once on a screen that fits into a back pocket. Yesterday at the walk-in clinic (nothing serious), I looked up from my phone for a second because of a cramp in my neck. Everyone was looking down at phones except for a girl who seemed to be in timeout. No phone for you. Next!

Because I love you I’m going telling all the Catholic dailies, weeklies, biweeklies, monthlies, etc…, that if you don’t end your love for printing your periodicals on paper you will join the Dodo. It doesn’t even matter if you’re in India or China where printed newspaper subscribers are actually growing. Truly happy for you but wait until everyone in those countries has a phone with a data plan. You’re next. Do nothing and you’re postponing the inevitable. Catholic periodicals addicted to paper pretty much anywhere else in the world are committing business suicide. It’s shocking to see stacks of a Catholic weekly just lying around at the back of a church and being picked up by the few people who are enjoying outliving everyone else. If on the off chance I see some young college kid whip out a Catholic newspaper on the train I’ll ask myself if I’m seeing things or whether the child is delusional for handing over a few bucks for what could probably be found online for free. It just doesn’t make sense to print your periodicals on paper anymore, unless flushing money down the toilet is your thing.

There might be plenty of young subscribers to your Catholic content but they are a fraction of a percentage of young Catholics that can be reached right now on their phones. If you want to go ahead and keep printing your wonderful content on trees, be my guest. Many people love and expect that, staying your loyal subscribers until death. Then what? Then you die. Simple. Selling no physical periodicals and making no money spells but one thing. Man I’m coming down hard. You leave me no choice. When I see a Catholic weekly being delivered to a friend’s house with an attached letter begging him to subscribe for next to nothing a year, it tells me you’re not seeing the writing on the wall. You’re hemorrhaging money and common sense. Kill the physical printing press and migrate to the pixelated variety. It’s gonna hurt and you’ll suffer for who knows how long. You might not make it, but you’ll at least know you gave making the leap from paper to pixel a try.

Let’s put that talk of dying and of making no money behind us for a second and jump right into the opposite. How do you become one of the successful Catholic periodicals out there? Change none of your content but make it all free and mobile friendly. Don’t charge people to access your stuff and make it so it’s extremely easy to read on phones while waiting at places like the walk-in clinic. Forget the big screen, that’s easy and the default for many periodicals when making the transition from print. Who know’s what the future will bring, but today if you want to play with the big boys and girls you have to be mobile first. Kill that old printing press, put in the effort you always have into generating great content, and put mobile first. This isn’t rocket science people!

photo credit: –Mike–