I know I come to this realization later than most, and you are wondering why I arrive at this revelation so late. It is mostly because of denial.
I used to get questioned about the state of the news industry all the time when I would tell people my profession. I would immediately launch into a rousing defense of my industry, knowing that my very livelihood depended on it a great deal. It’s not dying I would tell them, its evolving to fit within a fast-changing and innovative world. They are moving online I would say. Unconsciously, I knew I must have sounded rather ridiculous because the truth is the newspaper in its traditional form is quickly becoming irrelevant.
How did I come to this tragic realization you ask? I got a newspaper subscription.
Not having time to read the paper before I leave for work, I check the latest business and technology news on my smartphone, tweeting my thoughts along the way. I get to work and monitor the local news to see if there is any news involving our company, or anything that our followers on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+ would want to know. Throughout the day I repeat this process. On the way home I interact with people on Twitter, mostly regarding the news of the day.
When I finally sit down to read the paper I realize it’s all news I’ve read. Or worse, in most cases it’s outdated. With journalists and everyone else on social media, the internet and 24-hour news televisions, the print edition can’t stay current enough to be a viable information source anymore. They aren’t mobile enough, they aren’t instantaneous enough and they aren’t innovative enough for our fast-paced culture.
Many in the industry argue, as I did, that newspapers are simply moving content online. But newspapers cannot produce enough revenue from advertising alone, and desperately needs subscribers to pay for the content that is being read. News agencies can’t give it away for free because it isn’t a sustainable business model.
However, these publications have brought about their own demise. As the internet became a tool anyone could use in the 1990s, newspapers rushed to get their content online to take advantage of another venue where advertising dollars could be generated. In the stampede to get online, newspapers gave away content for free. It is now 20 years later and they expect consumers to start paying for something they have been getting for nothing? Good luck with that!
As publications such as the Globe and Mail and the New York Times attempt to erect paywalls to bolster sagging revenues, they come to the realization that this will not solve their problem. If they act alone in this, they force consumers not willing to pay into the arms of its competition – if a newspaper won’t provide free news, readers will simply go to one that will. This brings readership down, which pushes ad revenue away as advertisers jump ship and publications are forced to charge more to advertise in their papers. The only way paywalls work is if every publication erects one.
We live in an interconnected world where there are thousands of news sources and every person with a smartphone is a citizen journalist. An internet connection is all one needs to access a flood of information about anything. Newspapers can’t sustain themselves in this environment. I can’t tell you what its future holds, but I can say the newspaper will be a shadow of its former self.