Stop the presses

 
 

With new media becoming most people’s preferred method of accessing the news, Kate Purcell considers the future of print media

From watching newsreels documenting the Second World War in the cinemas during the 1940s, to the early days of television and now our increasingly technology-dependant era which is immersed in stimuli, print media has encountered it’s fair share of strife. Nothing compares, however, to its decline in recent years.

There is no doubt that the advent of an ever-accessible internet by way of smartphones, tablets and laptops, fresh news is always at our finger tips. This has had a detrimental effect on print media.

It appears that in spite of a sharp decrease in advertisement revenue and the downsizing of the newspaper industry as a whole, there is an ever-growing demand for news. This somewhat positive trend gives hope that with some adjustments, print and digital media could enjoy some sort of a symbiotic relationship.

Worldwide, the newspaper industry has suffered an enormous upheaval since the mid 2000s, with an increasing trend of consumers reading news online. In the United States, smaller metropolitan daily papers have been forced to downsize or shut their doors completely, with larger newspapers running into financial difficulties due to their stock values and company valuations falling.

An example lies in the San Diego Union Tribune, a paper worth $1 billion in 2004. In 2009, it was forced to sell to a private equity firm for just $50 million. This was a “rock bottom price,” according to the Wall Street Journal, who also stated that the decline of print media has been so great that while many important newspapers are for sale, their liabilities outweigh their assets, leading to reluctance to buy.

The industry in the UK has encountered similar issues of late with a fall off in ad-related income and job cuts. The ‘Journalism Job Losses: Tracking Cuts Across the Industry’ report from 2010 suggests that one in ten UK publications would need to halve their publication frequency or switch to online media to survive.

These projections of the future of the print industry are damning and depict a sector that is unable to adapt to the changing nature of how people interact with media. It is due to the steady rise of search engines and immediate access to information that print media has been brought to it knees.

Consumers from previous decades could only access news daily. Today, however, the public is less likely to read out of general interest, but to seek out particular writers or articles relevant to their interests instead.

The technological lag in the world of print media is what has led to people using websites such as Twitter, the Huffington Post and Reddit as a means of instantly accessing news.

While the demand for news is clearly sky-rocketing, with interested parties becoming younger, the study ‘Wag the Blog: How reliance on traditional media and the internet influence credibility perception on weblogs among blog users’ suggests that many readers attribute more credibility to the news they read in blogs and online sources than that found in their traditional counterparts.

Blogging news websites with politically-minded writers have grown exponentially in recent years, and have been credited with bringing to light international stories of corruption. If not for bloggers, there is little doubt that feminism would not be enjoying its current renaissance and a western audience would know little of the drastic stance Russia has taken on the LGBT community.

In an attempt to compete, many newspapers have taken their articles online and employed apps as a means of drawing in a younger audience, but this has done little to reclaim the finances lost in recent years, with a mere 15% rise in ad revenues.

The future for print media lies in its ability to adapt. Other industries have suffered similar problems in the past and have survived. One need not look any further than the music industry to see the truth in this. In spite of the rise in piracy, record companies are learning to use this means of massive exposure to bring in more revenue and have adapted by providing a wide range of music for a nominal fee through measures like Spotify.

While the pitfalls encountered by print media in the past appear to be pebbles in the ocean compared to the internet, there is a way back. Arianna Huffington, founder of the hugely popular news site, the Huffington Post, believes that newspapers need to utilise their strong consumer relationships and embrace technological advances to live on.

She states that an enduring change in the industry is required and that the proliferation of traditional journalism lies in the hybridisation of the award-winning writing seen in traditional media. There will always be a demand for, and the ability to, distribute to millions instantly. Reader engagement is key, and allowing some form of participation will bring in a wider, younger audience.

Jason E. Klein, CEO of Newspaper National Network, sees finding a niche for print media as vital to its survival. This is potentially how different the experience is to reading news on a tablet or phone is to reading printed news.

Perusing a broadsheet is an immersive leisure experience that online media simply cannot replicate. This anachronism is in and of itself attractive to many readers, the ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ effect.

Essentially, it is the news itself and not the medium through which it is conveyed that is of vital importance. It is summed up best by Arthur Sulzberg Jr., Chairman and publisher of the New York Times, “Newspapers cannot be defined by the second word, paper. They’ve got to be defined by the first word, news.”

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