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Mixed notes Monday

By Rich Heldenfels Published: March 10, 2014

Readers have been writing and calling about the end of the Beacon Journal's Channels supplement.  While I am no longer writing for that section, I still have a Sunday column which will deal with upcoming TV and possibly other entertainment options. It is running in the Community section; you can see the one from Sunday here.

Still, older readers in particular are unhappy that they no longer have a print, full-week guide to TV.

I get that. I'm old enough myself to remember when the arrival of a weekly TV section was a joy, an excuse to sit down and thumb through the listings and articles. When I started at the Beacon Journal almost 20 years ago, the TV supplement was a fat, comprehensive listing, and included more than one story along with the program lineups.

But time and economics have seen it change in form and reduce in size, while TV itself kept expanding its offerings beyond what those remaining print pages could hold.

There are more non-broadcast channels than ever. After the digital transition, broadcasters used their signals for not one channel but several. (I often get calls asking why we don't list all those channels, too.) On top of that, you had original programs popping up online, via Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.

As all that was happening, many viewers were turning to onscreen guides instead of print ones. Nor were the networks themselves helping, as they began making last-minute changes more frequently, regardless of the way those changes rendered print listings out of date.

And those readers were remained loyal to the print versions were deemed unattractive by advertisers. One ad man years ago flatly said that Channels was "a dog" in terms of ad sales.

And it was not just a problem for Channels; the TV Guide magazine we knew when we were young ceased to exist about a decade ago.

So you had the problem of an expanding viewing universe bumping up against a shrinking space and reduced advertising. For a reader who only cares if "NCIS" is on and whether a "Castle" rerun can be found, the remaining supplement might have been enough. But I have long thought it was a less than useful product for most readers. And organizations have had to make choices about how to serve the greater number of customers.

I would love to keep doing the kind of TV supplement we were doing 20 years ago. Even something bigger, embracing all those different viewing opportunities out there. But the people who make those decisions, who have to figure out how to deploy their limited resources, have gone other ways. And not just here.

One of the byproducts of technological advance, as I have said before, is that some people get left behind: many are too old to change, or too poor to pick up the latest devices. Channels is another demonstration of that.

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