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Monday, June 13, 2016

Crossword Puzzles: A Debatable Future

Crossword Puzzles - A Debatable Future

Crossword puzzles have enjoyed over a century of success, but their place in society over the next century is in question. The crossword puzzle is an early 20th century game and it hasn’t changed much since then, which is a good thing, because people don’t want it to. However, the way it is promoted needs to be changed. Back when everybody read the newspaper, the crossword puzzle was easily accessible. Since the rise of the Internet, the readership of news publications has been on a steady decline. Considering the crossword puzzle relies on those publications for visibility, it’s clear that it needs to find a new medium soon. With that being said, the crossword puzzle is culturally significant in countries worldwide and its death is difficult to fathom. 

Who Reads the Newspaper?

People love to read. It was reported that over 51% of Americans say that they genuinely enjoy reading. This number hasn’t changed much over the past several decades. However, what has changed is the number of people who read on printed material. Readers are now transitioning towards digital platforms, which hurts the newspaper industry. It should be noted that the newspaper has taken the biggest hit. The percentage of people who read printed newspapers regularly has dropped to around 20% from 54% in 2004, while books and magazines have seen drops of 4% and 6% respectively. 

Newspapers rely on adults aged 30 and older, since young adults simply don’t read the news, whether it is on print or online. Most young adults get their news on social networking sites, with just 13% of them reading newspapers. It’s clear that the youth and young adults simply aren’t seeing crossword puzzles, which is a problem for the industry since they are such a large demographic.

Unable to Appeal to a Younger Audience

If you ask a millennial if they want to finish the crossword puzzle in your newspaper, you’ll likely get a confused look. For most young people, the idea of doing a crossword puzzle simply isn’t any fun. There is so much competition for the attention of the young that maybe a century old game will always seem boring to them. It’s understandable when they have thousands of games at the tip of their fingers on their mobile devices. 

Crossword puzzle designers for major publications have said that they make crossword puzzles for their active audience, which is older, white and college educated people. They generally don’t try and “recruit” a younger audience. 

Patience is Everything

Some claim that the youth will never appreciate crossword puzzles and that they will only come to appreciate them with time. Doing a crossword puzzle isn’t exciting, rather it is satisfying. It takes patience, critical thinking, and no distractions to properly do a crossword puzzle, which are three things younger people struggle with. This is not to say that they are unable to do crosswords, but that they are unwilling. With age, you come to appreciate cognitive exercise. Crossword puzzle makers are banking on this; if it remains true, then crosswords will always have a place in society. 

Getting Mobile

Most people have cellphones and those who publish crosswords are finally starting to take notice. There’s starting to be a transition towards mobile devices and it seems to be paying off. There are dozens of popular crossword puzzle apps for both iOS and Android devices. This is the first step in the right direction to target the youth. With that being said, getting mobile isn’t only about the youth. Elderly people love their mobile devices as well. In America, there are more elderly people with tablets than cellphones. This indicates that they too are wanting to transition away from print. Furthermore, when the millennials turn 60, they certainly will be using mobile devices. Crossword puzzle publishers need to plan for the future and invest time, money, and energy into finding its place in the technological world. 

Spreading the Money

A huge issue within the industry is the debate over who should get the rights to the puzzle; the company who published it or the puzzle maker. In most cases, it’s the organization that published the crossword puzzle that gets to own the rights. This is something that turns off would-be puzzle makers. Those who work for newspapers that keep the rights of the crossword puzzles they make, are now attempting to publish them themselves. 

The newspapers don’t want to keep losing their best puzzle makers, while puzzle makers would rather work with them as a partner than an employee. Coming to a compromise would be best because newspapers would get to keep their best talent, and puzzle makers would get more exposure for their work

Maintaining Relevance 

It’s impressive that the crossword puzzle, which hasn’t changed for a century, has been able to maintain relevance in the age of technology. The famous author Nicholas Carr in his essay “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” discussed the issue of over-stimulation, which he claims has led to the decline of “unexciting activities”. It speaks to the cultural significance of the crossword puzzle that it has survived a century and continues to be relevant in a time where we’re planning trips to Mars.

The crossword puzzle hit its peak years ago and it will likely never become as popular as it once was. Nonetheless, it is here to stay. The crossword puzzle industry must make some changes, because in some ways it’s still operating as if it were the 20th century. The crossword puzzle has become such a staple in society that it will simply continue to transition to the next platform, as it did when it went from print to the Internet, and now to cellphones and tablets. 





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