About Me

  • I've spent more than 25 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies and startups. You can read more about me here.

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June 22, 2009


Dan Woog

Great points, Mark. I'm not an acrostic fan (crosswords only), but if they come for one of us, they can come for us all.

I'm also glad to see you share my loathing for The Ethicist. What a waste of good newsprint. I've never met anyone more in love with his own words -- but I've also never seen anyone else slam this column as you have. Congrats.

Patrick Thornton


While I've never heard of the Acrostic before (it sounds like something I might enjoy), you've hit on something that I think is important for journalists to understand. A lot of people buy newspapers for other things other than journalism. Journalists (especially editors and decision makers) must come to grips with this.

My Dad told me that if The Plain Dealer (in Cleveland) keeps cutting comics, he'll probably cancel his decades long subscription. He reads news online all the time, but comics are one of the main thing he really enjoys in print format.

Many people tell me they only pick up the Sunday paper because of all the inserts. None of those are journalism, but they do offer real value to people.

Journalism is still the name of the game for newspapers, but newspapers have long had other content besides journalism. And it is often this other content that got people into reading the paper in the first place.


Another point is that it's important to have the "feel" of doing your puzzle on newsprint. I don't like doing crossword puzzles on any other kind of paper, or with the wrong kind of writing instrument. It's a sensory thing.


I've just found the Acrostic online and printed out the PDF, and if I could be sure the variety puzzles would always be online, I'd be content with that. It's a lot more convenient than hand-copying it from the (borrowed copy of the) magazine, which is what I've been doing since I moved. Of course, my reading a borrowed copy (the Sunday paper isn't worth the money) doesn't help the Times financially at all, but it should be worth something to the advertisers, because without the variety puzzles, I wouldn't go to the bother of borrowing the magazine from a distant neighbor, and I'd never see their ads.

Gab Goldenberg

As Charlie Brown might put it: "Auuuuuuugh"

Charles Barthold

In my time there were three things that would guarantee a flood of calls to the newsroom:

-- Any mistake in the crosswords. (Out of sequence, incomplete, etc.)
-- A mistake in the comics.
-- A recipe that was cut in the composing room.

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