"Everything which would ordinarily go into the waste paper basket after use"

Newspapers

The beer newspaper

The beer paper

Yes, it’s a newspaper about beer, an excellent idea for which there is surely an endless supply of interesting stories and riveting news. Particularly for beer drinkers.

It calls itself a ‘curated journal’ – whatever that means – but in essence it’s 16 pages of newsprint primarily about beer with just a smidgin of food and music thrown in for good measure. Focusing mainly on the burgeoning micro-brewery scene in Sydney’s inner suburbs, it’s actually quite an interesting read. Particularly for beer drinkers.

Beer in the beer paper

There is lots of white space, nice pictures of beer and beer bottles and bars and brewers, and not much copy spread rather thinly over 16 pages but as a promotional freebie it’s an interesting use of the medium, perhaps more in keeping with the home-spun, hipsterish vibe of the local brewing scene. Who needs a beer app anyway?

shredded paper

The Saturday paper

 

Saturday newspaper

It’s Saturday. And it’s a newspaper. This is from the same people who brought us The Monthly magazine and Quarterly Essay, thus continuing a resolutely literal-minded tradition of naming of publications according to what they are and when they come out.

As a long-time reader and subscriber to The Monthly, I had been looking forward to arrival of The Saturday Paper but, as noted elsewhere, I too was somewhat under-whelmed by its initial incarnation.

I’ve always admired The Monthly for being text-heavy and using photographs sparingly, sometimes obliquely but always effectively. Transferring that style over to a newspaper, however, is not easy. A lot of the photos in this issue were of mediocre quality and there were too few of them (which is reminiscent of that joke at the start of Annie Hall). Having fewer pics might work well in a monthly publication when there is time to research good quality ones but a newspaper needs more than that. It’s not a magazine.

The nadir for me was a profile about an entertainer or celebrity which made several references to his changed appearance but included not a single portrait pic. I still have no idea what he looks like.

We’ve had full-colour printing in newspapers for nearly 20 years now – not in every paper but most – so it seems rather perverse when a paper reverts to black and white imagery (even if it’s not a true mono) for no good reason or has no photos at all. The irony is that The Saturday Paper is printed on higher quality, more expensive stock than just about every other newspaper and yet the ones battling along on plain old 42gsm recycled stock still come up looking brighter, more colourful and easier to read, regardless of content.

shredded paper

 

The abandoned newspapers

Old newspapers

A stack of undelivered newspapers – is it any wonder that paper gets such a bad rap environmentally?

So what’s going on here? The obvious answer is that a pile of mouldy old newspapers which some underpaid delivery person couldn’t be bothered to deposit on people’s doorsteps has instead been dumped in a hidden corner to slowly decompose. It’s environmental vandalism, no different to a leaking oil well or a belching smokestack.

Paper eh? The sooner we move to an all-digital environment, the better it will be for all of us and the planet.

A couple of things…

Firstly, while the papers here are a pretty ugly eyesore, in essence all they are doing is decomposing. The paper and ink are biodegradeable, plant-based materials so, left to their own devices and Nature’s processes, the newspapers will slowly rot down. It’s no different to putting newspapers on garden beds to suppress weeds. It’s possible that even the plastic wrap is biodegradeable as many mailing houses now use it for wrapping papers (although not all publications do).

It looks foul but in fact it’s not doing much harm and may even provide a temporary home to insects and bugs.

Perhaps even more interesting is what happens if the papers don’t rot down.

The common belief is that chopping down trees to make paper and then sending the waste paper to landfill ultimately ends up releasing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

However, there is some evidence that this is not what happens at all. In fact, in certain circumstances, paper will decompose very slowly without releasing much carbon dioxide. In essence, it acts as a carbon sink, keeping the greenhouse gases locked up for many years.

This raises the interesting hypothetical as to whether, in order to combat climate change, it might be more beneficial to make lots of paper and then bury it underground as a form of de facto carbon sequestration.

Finally, it’s worth noting that this putrid pile is very much the exception that proves the rule. On the whole, the recycling of old newspapers in Australia is a very successful process. In fact Australia is often held up as a world-beating example in terms of the effectiveness of its newspaper recycling system.

Current figures suggest that up to 78 per cent of all newspapers are recycled daily in Australia, much higher than in many other countries and far out-stripping recycling rates for e-waste.

That doesn’t make this pile any more attractive to look at but it does suggest it shouldn’t be used to condemn print media in general, any more than a discarded computer should be used as an excuse to close down the internet.

shredded paper

The café freesheet

Cafe freesheet

From broadsheets to Broadsheet. See what I did there?

Last month I wrote about the end of the broadsheets as the Sydney Morning Herald moved over to a compact version. This month I’m looking at Broadsheet, a freebie newspaper which, rather confusingly, is not a broadsheet at all but rather another compact. Even more mysteriously, it bills itself as “Sydney’s leading independent online magazine and directory”. So, not a newspaper at all. Its masthead proclaims “Always online – sometimes in print” which sounds a bit apathetic to me but, hey, it’s free. I’m not inspecting its mouth too closely.

This particular version is printed on paper. I found it at a local café, which is appropriate given that’s what it seems to be about. Cafés. (…and fashion, music, art, food, design… look, I’m wandering off topic here). Where was I? Oh yes. Cafés. Cool cafés. But obviously not too cool because they also include a picture of a café where I have actually drunk coffee. How uncool is that.

Cafe freebie spread

Cool – Broadsheet cafe spread

 

It’s 28 pages cover to cover with a smattering of booze and design ads. It doesn’t say who printed it, which just as well because my copy was poor by modern standards – tinting, rub-off, creasing, misaligned pages and a cut-off that looks like it was done with a butter knife. All the things that give coldset web printing such a bad name. Or at least it used to… No wonder it’s only ‘sometimes’ in print.

Having said that, it looks good. And I actually read it right through and discovered a couple of new places for coffee and burgers, places where I may actually go and lower the tone. Nothing stays cool for long when I’m around.

shredded paper

The scented newspaper

Smelly newspaper ad

Ahh, the old scratch ‘n’ sniff. This is one of those hardy perennials that pops up from time to time at newspaper conferences as an example of how to offer advertisers more ‘value-add’. As such, it plays to one of the strengths of print on paper compared to the dreaded tablet or e-reader by appealing to our sense of smell.

In this instance, it is the scent of lemon myrtle which is being released in order to promote a brand of Easter bun. Chocolate and perfume are other favourites although I reckon it would be interesting, albeit perhaps a little more challenging, to introduce more subtle aromas such as ‘new car smell’.

These things must be exciting for advertisers and creatives desperate to find new ways to engage with jaded, cynical consumers – beyond the dreary task of taking great photograhs and writing stand-out copy. But, to my nose at least, it always screams (or stinks)  of ‘gimmick’ rather than ‘buy me’. Rubbing a newspaper doesn’t make me want to buy a bun.

As the publisher in this example noted at the time, “our intelligent, curious readers are always keen to know how it all works, e.g. how is the scent applied?”

Exactly. They remember the process not the product.

The other thing I’ve often wondered is that if scented papers are so successful at engaging with readers then why not use it all the time? Why not make newspapers smell attractive instead of just smelling of ink and paper (which, admittedly, I rather like in a perverse kind of way).

No doubt there is a cost factor involved but surely, somewhere, there is a market for a newspaper that, as you pass it in the newsagents or cafe, gives off a gentle whiff of freshly baked bread or just-made coffee in the morning.

Perhaps news pages could be given their own trademark smells – sweat and grass for the sports, money for the business pages, bullshit for the political commentary etc etc. It’s got to be worth a shot, surely?

shredded paper