Newspapers Are Not Dead, They Just Need to Change

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Editors Note: I wrote this two years ago about newspapers, saved it as a draft, but never published it until now. With finally some newspapers ending their printing press and going all online, I think these words are finally ringing true.


For the past few years, everyone has said how newspapers are dead. This has come from bloggers, TV reporters and even some newspapers themselves.

The main premise behind all of this article is the fact that actual newspaper subscriptions are down,” some newspapers have been laying off editorial staff, and publicly held newspapers have been under demand from investors to increase profits. However, are newspapers really dead?

The term newspaper may need to change into just news agency. But overall, I believe newspaperst will survive as gatekeepers of information; here is why…

Time Frame
Something is dead when it ceases to exist. There are still hundreds of major newspapers, many profitable. Be sure that the owners of newspapers will not let their investments for the past several hundred years die.

The newspaper business will not collapse this year. It will not collapse in five years. It will not collapse in 10 years and probably won’t collapse in the next 50 years. Newspapers are going to be here in some form for the next century. Rightfully so, as the act as trusted advisers and informers on a daily basis. Will they be in the same form as the Sunday Morning Paper, no. But, they will still be around.

Delivery Method
We have heard it time and time again, newspapers are dead because the internet use is the future. Sure, the internet has hit the newspapers profits. Newspapers were slow to adapt and let sites such as Craiglist, MySpace, Google, Yahoo, and Digg take leading roles in disseminating information and most importantly advertising. Will newspapers adapt and change their predominant delivery method eventually. Yes. Will that happen in the next few years, probably. However, delivery method has always changed since the first Roman newspaper in 84 BC. Yet, newspapers have survived for over 2000 years.

Newspapers will survive so long as the public needs news. Will the paper part of it eventually be dropped?”  Probably.Newspapers Are Not Dead, They Just Need to Change But this does not change the fact that newspapers will still deliver timely facts about events and act as a guide to what is important in our society. The fact that it is printed on paper, or viewed electronically does not make a difference. In fact, it may be helpful to most newspapers as it is a lot cheaper to post an article online then to have it printed.

Yes, subscribers are down. However, internet use is up. Newspaper web sites have increased viewership. The use of single articles from newspapers has increased dramatically in the past few years. The use of newspaper content by bloggers, news feeders, news aggregators (such as Yahoo News, Digg, and Google News) has increased too.

Newspapers just need to figure out how to get a piece of all that action, and they will be sitting very pretty. Whether this includes a subscription model, registration model, advertising model (banners, videos, ppc) or some other type of partnerships, the business people need to decide. However, as readerships move away from print and TV, they are moving online. This means that ad rates will increase to a point of high profitably. At the end of the day, advertisers want eyeballs, and the source that can provide them with the most targeted traffic will get the top revenue.

Many have attributed blogging as the death of newspapers, even journalism. The personal publishing platform of WordPress, Movable Type, MySpace, and the countless other ways to put things online is great. It’s a printing press for the masses. However, typically mob rule is ugly and not the best process.

We need newspapers to act as trusted source of information. We need them to act as guides to what is important. Can a blogger do this?”  Sure. Do most blogs create their own content?”  Sadly no.

Even the most known blogs, simply link to other news sources. Sure they may put in their own two bits and that may add to the debate, but the bottom line, is that everyone relies on our newspapers to produce, well….news. The day that bloggers, news feeders, and news aggregators stop repurposing newspaper content, and begin creating their own content will be the day newspapers are dead. That day has not come.

Quality of Newspapers
The final critique of the newspaper demise is the actual quality of newspapers. This idea concerns, bias, depth, coverage and accuracy.

First, newspapers are not biased. Yes, they may have a tone or slant from the managing editor on down to the individual reporter. However, having a slant is not a bad thing. Reporters in general should report both sides of the story, but only when both sides should be heard. The problem with TV “journalists” is that they always have two sides to a story, no matter how crazy one side is. This explains Anne Coulter and a few other people who seem to pop-up on TV continually. However, newspapers will always be less biased, due to the chain of command. You have reporters and editors both looking at a story. Unless their is an actual conspiracy to change the way something is reported, there is less change for bias. Compare this to most new media, such as blogs, where you can have as little as one person in charge of editorial content.

Yes, in terms of depth, with reduction of newspaper editorial staffs will leave reporters with less time and resources to devote to stories. In-depth stories will not get the same attention, as in previous years. However, this will change once newspapers figure out how to properly sell their advertising. Once revenues return, and more importantly Wall Street’s impression that revenues will return, then newspapers will hire more reporters. Keep in mind that the attention span of the audience has also shifted. Each generation subsequently wants less depth and more action. The newspapers are simply reacting to that demand.

As for coverage, will niche news sources take over to fill in the quality gap?”  Yes, bloggers and focused news web sites have already popped-up on every conceivable topic. However, often you still want to know what is going on in the world, or local area. Bloggers do not have time to report on government, education, crime, and other important topics. Newspapers fill that gap well, and often can tackle even the most tough topics such as technology and medicine.

Finally, in terms of accuracy, newspapers surely do their best to report what they saw, heard or read. Articles are produced over the course of a full day. Are they accurate as to what has happened to date, yet. Are they as accurate as a magazine report a month later?”  Perhaps not. Are they more accurate than a quick blog post? Surely. Newspapers will continue to be the most daily accurate source of information because they are not produced in a web-minute.

Newspapers Are Not Dead, They Just Need to Change
To wrap this up, until society stops wanting news,”  newspapers are alive. Of course, they need to make the shift to online and electronic delivery.

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