Dave Eggers' Audacious Plan To Save Newspapers

dave eggers

After hearing too many people lament the death of print and newspapers, Dave Eggers thinks it’s time he took matter into his own hands.

The author of Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius, and other books you’ve pretended to read, has a bold plan for saving newspapers: Produce the greatest newspaper ever, then charge a dollar for it, and get some advertisers on board.

He says people still want well written investigative reporting, as well as beautiful images, in one convenient package they can hold in their hands.

Sounds like a great plan to us, who doesn’t love paying very little for the very best? Maybe Eggers can pull it off. The economics might be tricky, and the best is always subjective, but McSweeney’s is good product. As is Believer. Wholpin looks pretty cool, in theory, too. We’ve never wanted to drop $50 on a DVD, so we don’t know.

Here’s the relevant excerpt from a mass letter Eggers is sending to people emailing him to express their concerns about the death of the printed word:

Pretty soon, on the McSweeney’s website— www.mcsweeneys.net— we’ll be showing some of our work on this upcoming issue, which will be in newspaper form. The hope is that we can demonstrate that if you rework the newspaper model a bit, it can not only survive, but actually thrive. We’re convinced that the best way to ensure the future of journalism is to create a workable model where journalists are paid well for reporting here and abroad. And that starts with paying for the physical paper. And paying for the physical paper begins with creating a physical object that doesn’t retreat, but instead luxuriates in the beauties of print. We believe that if you use the hell out of the medium, if you give investigative journalism space, if you give photojournalists space, if you give graphic artists and cartoonists space— if you really truly give readers an experience that can’t be duplicated on the web— then they will spend $1 for a copy. And that $1 per copy, plus the revenue from some (but not all that many) ads, will keep the enterprise afloat.

As long as newspapers offer less each day— less news, less great writing, less graphic innovation, fewer photos— then they’re giving readers few reasons to pay for the paper itself. With our prototype, we aim to make the physical object so beautiful and luxurious that it will seem a bargain at $1. The web obviously presents all kinds of advantages for breaking news, but the printed newspaper does and will always have a slew of advantages, too. It’s our admittedly unorthodox opinion that the two can coexist, and in fact should coexist. But they need to do different things. To survive, the newspaper, and the physical book, needs to set itself apart from the web. Physical forms of the written word need to offer a clear and different experience. And if they do, we believe, they will survive. Again, this is a time to roar back and assert and celebrate the beauty of the printed page. Give people something to fight for, and they will fight for it. Give something to pay for, and they’ll pay for it.

Image: Flickr/Erik Charlton

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