We often hear about how print subscribers are dying off and how the trends are changing in this industry. I use my personal experiences when I think about these trends and what it means for Newscycle and its clients. I personally have never subscribed to a newspaper as an adult and I’ve cancelled my print subscription to Women’s Health Magazine (I’ll explain why later). To tell you the truth, I’m not particularly interested in subscribing to a newspaper’s digital offerings because I know I can get the news somewhere else for free. Sad? Totally.

One of my tasks at Newscycle is to redirect leads and a few days ago a lead for High Country News popped up in my assignments. Normally, if I can’t figure out who owns the account, I go directly to the site to figure out its location. Now, I have seen some terrible sites, loaded with banner ads and awful, brand-degrading ‘catchy’ headlines. Usually I try find the information I’m looking for as fast as I can and move on to my next project. However, this one was just so different. I saw this High Country magazine’s site and was just immediately intrigued on how aesthetically pleasing it was. A part of the pull could be that I love the west and I’ll admit that I’d love to live there someday soon. One of my co-workers even calls me a “Granola Hippie,” which I wear proudly. Still, so many articles on this site sounded intriguing to me, especially this one: https://www.hcn.org/issues/47.12/is-tech-ruining-the-wilderness.

My Dad is someone who loves to get lost in nature, a trait that he passed on to me. I can relate to author of the article who talks about this struggle of wanting to be lost with the enjoyment of the wilderness; however, technology is here to help you enjoy it more! I’ve grown up in this generation of Instagram/posting and that feeling of “everyone needs to know how awesome this is” with the internal conflict of “I should just enjoy this for how wonderful it is.”

I was completely engaged in this article, and then BAM! – I hit the paywall. Normally I’m annoyed, but for the first time I wanted to subscribe. Not only did I want to read the rest of this article, but I could have access to more articles like this!? To me, this seemed worth paying for.

Instead of jumping right into a subscription, I opted for trial period offered by the site. To be honest, I’ve been using my trial period and read a lot of the articles and essays. When my trial period is up, I’ll probably join! Something about them offering me that “free” chance to prove how good they actually are makes me want to subscribe even more. It enforces the idea that good reporting is worth paying for.

Essays in online publications such as High Country News that make me think and expand as an individual have an incredible impact. The author doesn’t even have to take a side on the particular issue or try to tell me what’s right and wrong. It gives me a chance to think and feel out the issue for myself. I enjoy that process of contemplation. Not only that, but if you’ve captivated me I will send the essay or article to my friends, family and ask them to read it. I’ll want their opinions and thoughts on the matter, I want the discussion. (This ends up bringing more viewers to your site. A goal I believe you have.) For me, this experience is worth 20 bucks a year. I’ve probably spent 20 bucks on worse! Which makes me wonder … maybe newspapers and magazines that shorten and dumb down their articles to attract subscribers are actually leading to the reverse effect?

Which brings me back to my Women’s Health Magazine deal. Talk about destroying a brand, I actually find myself getting heated when I discuss this brand. I used to love this magazine—I love health stories. I can remember reading my mom’s copy when I was a teenager and learning a lot. The excitement of cracking open this month’s copy was thrilling because I was obtaining the most up to date health trends, the research and science behind it, and why it mattered. I enjoy the topics that are controversial, and through an almost discussion piece of journalism, help me come to my own conclusions. This was special to me and it used to be such a great read.

However, the quality has gone downhill and the magazine has become more driven to sell their product with a crappy offerings. So, I didn’t renew my print subscription and it was a great choice that saved me fifteen bucks a year. Of course, this being the digital age, I can access their articles online if any of them interested me. When that did occur, I would hop on their site and start to read and then get hit in the face with their personal banner ad. “You’re only 21 days away from your bikini body!!” BUT ONLY if you buy our book/products. Try to exit the ad, you have to click a button that says “No Thanks, I already have my bikini body,” which infuriates me. They’ve taken a turn, instead of a place of health and celebrating multiple body types—they’ve turned into that terrible body shaming culture they used to fight because according to them, the bikini body is the end all be all. Frankly, I don’t find myself on their site much anymore. No article feels worth that slam of the pop up add that might make me feel poor about myself because I don’t fit their ideal body shape. Would you want to visit a place that swapped out empowerment for a form a degradation? I vote: a big NOPE. (And, they have that terrible clickbait, which drives me insane because I thought they were better than that.)

I don’t think I’m alone here, by any means. In fact, a recent article on the Nieman Lab website talks about how graphically pleasing and modern websites – exactly like High County News – are actually increasing reader engagement AND comprehension. See http://www.niemanlab.org/2015/07/modern-homepage-design-increases-pageviews-and-reader-comprehension-study-finds/.

If media companies are intent on attracting and engaging people like me – and we know they are – it makes sense to return to a focus on quality, on design, and on content that is thought-provoking and even controversial. If you think I’ve forgotten about that essay about the wilderness and technology, think again. I originally read it weeks ago and am STILL thinking about it. I’ve taken multiple kayaking trips with and without my phone since reading the essay and I can see and feel the difference in each experience. Neither was completely wrong or right, but I was thinking about the words from the essay, “The whole idea of wilderness is to get away from the trappings of modern life.” But again, how else would you capture that view?

High Country News did a phenomenal job of presenting their material so that I stuck around. I read a thoughtful essay that gave me another perspective of how I view and interact with my world. I firmly believe that a modern look-and-feel; gives readers a chance to actually focus on one article instead of the chaos of the traditional newspaper and magazine format. I actually find the modern site enjoyable because I’m not ridiculously stressed out like a lab rat trying to read it all at once! Instead, I can enjoy my granola and contemplate the substance of what I’m reading.