With this series, I define a “neoliberalism folly” as a situation where a more efficient method or practice comes into play that has some liberating aspects to it for the end user, but the price to society and the economy at large also outweighs the benefits.
I visited Montreal for a little under a week to revisit my past of living and working part-time in the city in 2012, and found not so many structural changes, but a world transforming as a consequence of the smartphone. In 2012, there were at least 10 places I can recall physical, printed newspapers available for sale (primarily at dépanneurs, a pedestrian community type of convenience store) in the neighborhood I lived in near Concordia University en route to Westmount, the primarily English-speaking well-heeled neighborhood toward the West Island. However, with visiting in May 2015, I was only able to find one location offering newspapers for sale, the Pharmaprix (known as Shoppers Drug Mart throughout anglo Canada, similar to a Walgreens or CVS Pharmacy in the US) on Saint Catherine Street, the main drag or High Street. Canada has a number of high quality newspapers, The Globe and Mail, National Post, and Montreal Gazette is another local English newspaper from the city that I follow from their Facebook page. While Canadian newspapers, at least in English, follow a less sensationalized pattern than US ones usually do, I do feel like they retain a quality of journalism perhaps higher than what you find Stateside.
When inquiring with the dépanneur owners, mostly Asian or from North Africa, they said they could not bear the risk of having the newspapers on site because they no longer sell in their stores because “everyone” is now getting their news from their smartphones. That said, I have heard from a variety of sources from varying professions and perspectives that print ads in newspapers are still perhaps the most effective campaigns a company or retailer can invest in. Perhaps home subscribers fiscally see the newspapers through and have predictable enough consumer habits to be reliable investments for the advertisers. But for young, urban, scholarly types, what will be the most influential methods of pushing forward breakthrough products?
The question at hand is a cost-benefits analysis of perhaps greener practices involved with not printing so much newspaper that will be thrown away or recycled in a matter of days versus the quality interactions purchasing a newspaper can create, as well as the reliable segment of income this product used to offer newsstands and dépanneurs. This may save consumers a dollar or two a day but what other groups or products will capture this money in a low-interest and soft retail environment?