Are Newspapers On The Way Out?


Feb 03, 2015 by Alex

Almost as soon as the internet made its way into our homes, people began to predict the demise of the printed newspaper. With more and more news outlets appearing online, many free to use, and an increasing ability to view news from sources around the world, those voices have been growing louder. Surely, they claim, the day will come when printed newspapers will cease to exist - after all, they are old fashioned and out of touch, totally unsuitable for a modern readership. Is that true?


Changing formats

There is certainly plenty of evidence that the nature of news reporting is changing. One of the biggest is the reduction in journalism jobs: between 2007 and 2010, 13,500 journalism roles were cut in the USA alone, and similar patterns were seen around the world. With such a slimmed down staff, newspapers have had to become leaner and more efficient.

In such a context, it is easy to see the appeal of the online format for newspaper publishers. Printing costs big money - producing an online product is much more cost effective. Online newspapers allow publishers to offer a wider range of options to their advertisers - video, audio and click-through links - that in turn increase revenue and keep the business thriving.

There are advantages for readers, too. Online newspapers don't just allow their readers to interact with the news, they invite it. Readers can comment, link to alternative viewpoints and sources, express alternative interpretations of stories and make sure that particular news is spread around the world, for example by posting it on social media. Thus, some may say, the online newspaper promotes a democratic, citizen-led approach to news that simply cannot be done via print.

Perhaps the key advantage of web over print is that online newspapers are constantly updated. This capability, which is now almost taken for granted, may have changed people's expectations of news in a very fundamental way. It allows newspapers to compete with live TV coverage, and people to stay in touch with events in real time. Again, print cannot do this.


Cultural traditions

However, supporters of print point to its long history of being central to our culture: people are used to newspapers being available in print form (even if they don't read them) and may distrust publishers that produce newspapers for web alone. In other words, the traditional, high profile print versions of newspapers have a crucial brand value for their publishers. Without the print versions to give them credibility, would anybody be as interested in the newspapers' online versions?

There are also those in society who simply dislike reading online, who like to do the crossword or cut out recipes from a 'proper' paper, those who cannot afford an e-reader or who simply like to have the choice between print and screen.

Of course, over time it is likely that these latter groups will diminish, since technology is becoming commonplace, especially amongst the young. The exponential growth in sales of mobile technology, such as smartphones, is likely to affect the way that news is consumed. However, whether any of this means that printed newspapers will die completely, is a very different question, and we shall simply have to wait for the answer.