It seems, yes, It's What Inside That Matters.
According to Jack Shafer at Slate, the coolest thing about newspapers is not what you find on the front page. Quite the contrary. It's the A4 stories and the just-before-the-editorial-page content that is the lifeblood of papers, the stuff that differentiates them from other forms of media.
And I agree with him. Here's what Shafer has to say:
In the Web era, I find myself spending more time with the inside pages of newspapers, probably because I've not tainted my consciousness by previewing many of them on the Web. Those inside pages tend to have a magazine feel to them because of their greater independence from breaking news. In recent months, I've noticed the Washington Post place heavier emphasis on graphics to illustrate the inside news, taking advantage of big pages whose acreage dwarves that of the average computer monitor. All to the good.The point of Shafer's piece is that we consume news nowadays in the spirit of muffintops– we consume the most visible stuff and cast the rest aside – but still we have that feeling that there was something we missed out on. Due to the immediacy of electronic media, we've developed into online headline grazers, getting the basic big story on our own -- but not a whole lot more. The web and real-time media has rendered the morning's front pages a batch of leftovers for a lot of us. Shafer also points out that frequently what is 'news' in the paper actually occurred 20 or so hours earlier – after we've already read about it online and discussed it with friends. So, naturally, some potential news consumers don't pick up the newspapers anymore, since the cover contain already-familiar information.
So does this mean we need to rethink front pages? Nah. It's probably a good idea to leave them be – sometimes an important new detail emerges in the coverage – as, at the minimum, a good baseline of six slug headlines that everyone should be aware of. But as for newspapers' future survival, the key is to identify themselves more by their inside content than what's in 24-point font on the front page.
It's the headline hunters and the news nomads, traversing the homepages of news Web sites, that are phasing themselves out of the ranks of newspaper readers and causing newspapers to have an identity crisis. The people that newspapers need to hold (cling?) onto are the ones who want that little bit more for their 35 or 50 cents, an A7 sense of the world.