I Am Internet, Hear Me Roar! How the Web Is Transforming or Destroying Your Favorite Medium [Newspapers]

First, let me pre-empt this series of posts by stating the following: I am a fan of all types of media. Books, newspaper, film, music, etc. I love em’ all! I think there is something to be said (for each of these) and the ‘physical’, more tangible qualities of each are what has helped keep them around for this long. That being said, I am also a big internet junkie and I appreciate how it has transformed the way we take in media, the way we do business, and the way we live. Step back and think about it for a minute. Can you even imagine how we lived before high-speed Internet was as abundant as the air we breath? It is truly amazing to see how technology has developed, and it is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

But, as the Internet continues to develop and advance, it’s impact on other forms of media is ever-growing. In short, the Internet eats your favorite old medium for breakfast – chewing them up and spitting them back out again. Sometimes the media transforms and adapts to form a happy relationship with the web (contrary to what many believe, there is a spark here that can lead to some serious making out behind the bleachers, and who knows, maybe even a date to the sock-hop). But, other times, and what we are seeing happen more and more often, they stumble and eventually succumb to the Internet’s wrath. This can be a pretty scary thought – because many of us, especially those who are just outside the Gen-Y community – are personally attached to our old hardback novels, VHS movies, subscriptions to Time Magazine, and vinyl records. Nostalgia can go a long way – and again, there is something to be said for being able to physically own a piece of history.

Over the next week – I’ll highlight some of these types of media that are in the ‘hot seat’ , we’ll make a few observations on the overall industry, and we’ll take a closer look at the metamorphosis the Internet is imposing on ‘old school’ media.

Chapter 1: Newspapers

Newspapers have been a dying breed for some-time. The way we obtain news and information has dramatically changed. As we used to rely on the daily newspaper for our primary source of news – society has gradually shifted toward a much more interactive and engaging form of data processing. In a nutshell, we want information, and we want it now. Overall, society is extremely impatient and want’s everything as quickly as possible, even if quality is sacrificed. Think about where you turn to get the news. Is it an online website? Is it TV? Is it through social networking sites like Twitter – where news breaks almost before it even happens?

So the question is, how will newspapers continue to survive? WILL they survive? I believe there will always be a place for (at least) some newspaper, but that market is continuing to diminish. Why?

  1. The timeliness of newspapers – they simply are not up-to-date. Most of the news stories found in a paper are dated in comparison to the almost instantaneous reporting of information on TV and the web.
  2. Making it interactive. The ‘smart’ publications and news sources are integrating and developing a web presence. A majority of the local newspapers here in Nashville have websites to supplement their printed counterparts. This allows for up-to-date reporting of information, allows for readers to engross themselves in a particular story, sharing thoughts, comments, providing additional sources, etc. People want to become involved and integrated with stories they are passionate about, and the Internet allows just that.
  3. Advertising. This is probably the main reason printed newspapers will continue on their downward spiral. Newspapers are fundamentally supported by the sale of advertisements. Companies and organizations place ad’s in a newspaper hoping that their target demographic will notice the ad and, in turn, buy whatever they are selling. Prices of these ads are set based on the number of people viewing and whether or not the target demographic is reached properly. As readership continues to decline, thus will prices of ad space. And, as the vicious cycle continues, as advertisements go unsold, newspapers will lose funding and have to cut back wherever they can.

Journalism is far from dead, given the advancements in technology and internet usage, there is no reason to think it shouldn’t thrive as we move forward. It’s imperative for news-providing resources to keep up with the latest technological trends. Give the people what the want. When it comes to newspapers, especially those who have not or refuse to integrate a web-based presence into their business model – the Internet is essentially one peg away from sinking the battleship. Game over.

What is your opinion printed media becoming obsolete? Do you see an end to the world of newspapers and printed media? Where will we be 5 or 10 years from now?

[Tomorrow: Film & Television]


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12 Responses
  • rikin Reply

    Our brains seem to be working on the same level once again Matt… My next post, “The Information Recession” is going to be about the death of newspapers and print media in general. The three points you made ring true for the most part. Daily newspapers I argue though are fairly timely. (If you go to Digg on any given day you can see articles from many newspapers at the top of the list). In terms of interactive it's a funny thing because newspaper companies especially the NYTimes are leading the way in making news interactive. It's almost as if papers are internally biting the hand that feeds them; every time they make digital breakthroughs the paper product is negatively impacted. Advertising will undoubtedly go down and at the end of the day that's where all of this really lies. Online advertising is a bag of metrics that advertisers and publishers can tweak and hone to optimize their campaigns dollar for dollar.The love of journalism is definitely not dead but I have a feeling it will take a huge hit “the day the papers die”. Practically every blogger receives inspiration from what originally came from an article in a paper or magazine. Yes, we may have found it online but it originated from the paper product. At the end of the day, newspapers make far more money from print than online. If the print product dies their digital efforts will most likely die as well, or at least be consolidated to the point of being useless. Their really isn't an escape plan for thousands of journalists who have worked tirelessly to build relationships and expertise. The transition to digital will not be smooth for all of them and many will get left behind. In my eyes, bloggers simply don't have the means to come up with some of the content that journalists do. Journalists are backed by large organizations and have access to powerful resources which unearth the information that the public usually can't get their hands on. When print dies, I think there will be a noticeable information recession and all of us, especially bloggers, will feel its effect.

  • rikin Reply

    Our brains seem to be working on the same level once again Matt… My next post, “The Information Recession” is going to be about the death of newspapers and print media in general.

    The three points you made ring true for the most part. Daily newspapers I argue though are fairly timely. (If you go to Digg on any given day you can see articles from many newspapers at the top of the list). In terms of interactive it's a funny thing because newspaper companies especially the NYTimes are leading the way in making news interactive. It's almost as if papers are internally biting the hand that feeds them; every time they make digital breakthroughs the paper product is negatively impacted. Advertising will undoubtedly go down and at the end of the day that's where all of this really lies. Online advertising is a bag of metrics that advertisers and publishers can tweak and hone to optimize their campaigns dollar for dollar.

    The love of journalism is definitely not dead but I have a feeling it will take a huge hit “the day the papers die”. Practically every blogger receives inspiration from what originally came from an article in a paper or magazine. Yes, we may have found it online but it originated from the paper product. At the end of the day, newspapers make far more money from print than online. If the print product dies their digital efforts will most likely die as well, or at least be consolidated to the point of being useless. Their really isn't an escape plan for thousands of journalists who have worked tirelessly to build relationships and expertise. The transition to digital will not be smooth for all of them and many will get left behind. In my eyes, bloggers simply don't have the means to come up with some of the content that journalists do. Journalists are backed by large organizations and have access to powerful resources which unearth the information that the public usually can't get their hands on. When print dies, I think there will be a noticeable information recession and all of us, especially bloggers, will feel its effect.

  • Matt Reply

    Rikin. Thanks, as always, for sharing your in-depth thoughts on the issue. I would agree that daily newspapers remain ‘fairly timely’ – but in modern society people want instant gratification with their entertainment and information. The internet provides people with not only up-to-the-minute news, but an outlet to integrate their own thoughts and ideas. This is what makes the web a much more diverse medium than standard print media.

    And, as you made a point in stating – many of the mega-print companies are innovators into the online medium. Why? Because they have the resources to do so. Look at what CNN did with the election – never has there been such in depth and fully interactive coverage of an event – connecting news, social networking and blogging into one information mainframe.

    The love of journalism is FAR from dead – all one has to do is look to the dramatic rise in blogging and online interaction. And I hope that newspapers don’t fade away – some will, and it will be those that are stubborn and refuse to embrace new technological advances. The ones that will ultimately be the most successful will find ways to mix the old with the new – credibility + interactivity.

  • Matt Reply

    Rikin. Thanks, as always, for sharing your in-depth thoughts on the issue. I would agree that daily newspapers remain ‘fairly timely’ – but in modern society people want instant gratification with their entertainment and information. The internet provides people with not only up-to-the-minute news, but an outlet to integrate their own thoughts and ideas. This is what makes the web a much more diverse medium than standard print media.

    And, as you made a point in stating – many of the mega-print companies are innovators into the online medium. Why? Because they have the resources to do so. Look at what CNN did with the election – never has there been such in depth and fully interactive coverage of an event – connecting news, social networking and blogging into one information mainframe.

    The love of journalism is FAR from dead – all one has to do is look to the dramatic rise in blogging and online interaction. And I hope that newspapers don’t fade away – some will, and it will be those that are stubborn and refuse to embrace new technological advances. The ones that will ultimately be the most successful will find ways to mix the old with the new – credibility + interactivity.

  • Suzanne Shaffer Reply

    I can’t remember the last time I actually read a paper newspaper. I get all my news online. I don’t even watch it on television. Online I can pick and choose what I read and it’s free. I do feel that eventually one day, paper newspapers will be a thing of the past. This, while sad, is an inevitable sign of the times.

    I find this an interesting topic since I fear that the written word is also disappearing. Very few people communicate on paper any longer. Emails, text messages, tweets and online greeting cards have replaced the fine art of letter writing. How will history know those wonderful details of our lives that we’ve seen in Lincoln’s letters to his wife or Civil War letters written to families during this difficult time in our history?

    It certainly is something to ponder.

  • Suzanne Shaffer Reply

    I can’t remember the last time I actually read a paper newspaper. I get all my news online. I don’t even watch it on television. Online I can pick and choose what I read and it’s free. I do feel that eventually one day, paper newspapers will be a thing of the past. This, while sad, is an inevitable sign of the times.

    I find this an interesting topic since I fear that the written word is also disappearing. Very few people communicate on paper any longer. Emails, text messages, tweets and online greeting cards have replaced the fine art of letter writing. How will history know those wonderful details of our lives that we’ve seen in Lincoln’s letters to his wife or Civil War letters written to families during this difficult time in our history?

    It certainly is something to ponder.

  • Matthew Reply

    Hell, very few people communicate in person. I made the bold statement the other day that by 2020 we would have no need for face-to-face communication. I was speaking mostly tongue-in-cheek, but think about the path we are heading down right now. With the rise in social networks, blogging, twittering, etc. – the need for actual human interaction is rapidly declining. Kind of a scary thought, but the technology-takeover is only going to continue to develop. As for newspapers – I very rarely sit down and read a paper – the internet is a much more thorough source. That being said, we sacrifice some credibility and reliability of information as we rely solely on online mediums for the facts. I do not see printed news becoming entirely obsolete for some time – but we will continue to see a decline in the medium.

  • Matthew Reply

    Hell, very few people communicate in person. I made the bold statement the other day that by 2020 we would have no need for face-to-face communication. I was speaking mostly tongue-in-cheek, but think about the path we are heading down right now. With the rise in social networks, blogging, twittering, etc. – the need for actual human interaction is rapidly declining. Kind of a scary thought, but the technology-takeover is only going to continue to develop.

    As for newspapers – I very rarely sit down and read a paper – the internet is a much more thorough source. That being said, we sacrifice some credibility and reliability of information as we rely solely on online mediums for the facts. I do not see printed news becoming entirely obsolete for some time – but we will continue to see a decline in the medium.

  • tched Reply

    Newspapers will probably continue to exist but the ownership is going to change. Whether or not the content inside is considered journalistic in the future is completely up in the air. I'd say you're likely to find plenty of “Calendar of events/shopper-zines” with the name of old publications still grazing the top fold. As for making newspapers interactive, I think that's probably more effort than its worth for a good long while. A good local newspaper should print a hefty edition once a week, with easy to digest articles that wouldn't necessarily work for an online audience. (e.g. longer articles with an unbiased focus that examines as much as it investigates). Of the people left that do enjoy reading newspapers, they want it to look, act, and feel like a newspaper. Not a supplement to an online version. Of course, when this happens, newspapers will truly be a novelty and that will not be a disputed argument.Good post Matt. Really enjoyed it.

  • tched Reply

    Newspapers will probably continue to exist but the ownership is going to change. Whether or not the content inside is considered journalistic in the future is completely up in the air. I'd say you're likely to find plenty of “Calendar of events/shopper-zines” with the name of old publications still grazing the top fold.

    As for making newspapers interactive, I think that's probably more effort than its worth for a good long while.

    A good local newspaper should print a hefty edition once a week, with easy to digest articles that wouldn't necessarily work for an online audience. (e.g. longer articles with an unbiased focus that examines as much as it investigates). Of the people left that do enjoy reading newspapers, they want it to look, act, and feel like a newspaper. Not a supplement to an online version.

    Of course, when this happens, newspapers will truly be a novelty and that will not be a disputed argument.

    Good post Matt. Really enjoyed it.

  • Matthew Reply

    Thanks for jumping in the discussion tChed! I believe that newspapers are getting to the point where they need to be more 'limited' to be effective. The day of the morning periodical is fading quickly. A newspaper will print something and the story my change or develop 10 times throughout the course of the day. I think we still rely on printed media to provide us with a credible source – but as you said – a good and effective newspaper should focus on publishing a hefty once-a-week edition. This will provide a credible source and allow for a gathering of facts throughout a week's time. It may not be the latest breaking news – but the newspapers I read (Scene, Rage, etc) provide a summary-like approach to their articles. This allows for a much easier-to-digest read. And this, in turn, could be in conjunction with online reports and articles. Integration and adaptation of both mediums is key.

  • Matthew Reply

    Thanks for jumping in the discussion tChed! I believe that newspapers are getting to the point where they need to be more 'limited' to be effective. The day of the morning periodical is fading quickly. A newspaper will print something and the story my change or develop 10 times throughout the course of the day. I think we still rely on printed media to provide us with a credible source – but as you said – a good and effective newspaper should focus on publishing a hefty once-a-week edition.

    This will provide a credible source and allow for a gathering of facts throughout a week's time. It may not be the latest breaking news – but the newspapers I read (Scene, Rage, etc) provide a summary-like approach to their articles. This allows for a much easier-to-digest read. And this, in turn, could be in conjunction with online reports and articles. Integration and adaptation of both mediums is key.

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