Printed media had been the main source of information (particularly news) for people since mass printing technologies invention in XVI century till the middle of XX century, when alternative kinds of media started growing. The first considerable decline of newspapers popularity took place in 1950s, when television became the most important source of news and entertaining information thanks to its attractive audiovisual characteristics. And the recent shock for printed media owners was caused by online media vast emerge in 2000s.
If in 1940 there were 1 878 newspapers in USA, in 2014 their quantity shrank to 1 331 (according to the data provided by Newspaper Association of America, see details in fig. 1).
Figure 1. The number of daily newspapers in USA in 1940-2014 according to Newspaper Association of America.
The same trend can be seen in industry’s revenue. Though the number of newspapers was declining since early 80s, industry’s revenue started falling only after 2005, the year with peak sales reaching $60.2 billion. Newspaper Association of America states that in 2013 total newspaper media revenue was $37.6 billion, which is 40% less than in 2005.
Such changes in transforming market to digital variant influenced level of employment in newsrooms in USA. More simple modern ways of gathering essential information for creating news impacted on need in specialists analyzing raw information. Since 2006 the number of people employed in newsrooms dropped 33% from 55,000 employees to 36,700 employees in 2013 (Barthel).
Reader’s approach changed from just consuming information to the mixture of data consumption and generation. Ability to create your own content became as easy as it never was before. Popularity of projects with user-generated content like Wikipedia, Wikimapia, OpenStreetMaps prove this statement. Number of these projects contributors is constantly rising from year to year. In many countries like Israel, Armenia and others contributing to Wikipedia even became an important part of educational process (Katz, Tarkhanyan).
Moreover, social media today often becomes a major source of up-to-date information, because any newspaper can have such wide network of observers like Facebook or Twitter has. Facebook posts are often cited in old and well-known newspapers. This phenomenon is especially actual in the countries, where local media in traditional format is not well developed.
Looking at this statistics, one can think that traditional newspapers are destined for slow extinction. But are the perspectives of traditional media that frustrating? I believe they are not. There is a number of practices regarding necessary transformations of traditional media in modern environment.
The most obvious way is developing easy-to-use online variants of printed media and providing access to them for customers. The first newspaper in USA having introduced charge for online access to its materials was The Wall Street Journal. Interestingly, it happened long before real traditional media crisis started – in 1996. But, of course, such approach became a wide trend in the end of 2000s.
In 2007 Financial Times introduced digital subscription plans, pioneering so-called metered model, when readers have a quota of free articles per month. When they exceed this quota, they have to pay for further access to the content. Reader can view subscription options in a special message on the website, which pops up the first time when user visits the website and then appears when reader reached maximum amount of free articles online (see fig. 2). This revenue model proved to be successful: at the present moment nearly 60% of Financial Times subscribers use paid variant of online newspaper (Lee).
Figure 2. Diversity of Financial Times digital subscription plans (as of 7 Feb. 2016).
The New York Times started charging clients for viewing its content in 2011 and, just like in two previous cases, succeeded. They now make more money from readers than from advertisement sales. 53% of income comes from online viewers and 47% of income is received from marketers (Lee). Before online subscription started, this ratio was 80% to 20% in favor of advertising.
Besides just going online, another way of traditional media transformation is pretty clear. This is about become more niche or luxurious product for specific clients and generating very high quality content, which won’t be possible to get from other sources.
Steve Auckland, Chief Executive of “Independent and Evening Standard” newspaper group, thinks that industry will become a captive market and will be targeted towards more niche audiences (“Niche Markets and Quality Products – the Future for Newspapers”). We can see today, that magazines as a product similar to newspapers in some sense are succeeding in such strategy. Unlike newspapers, magazines in printed format are still dominant. Such well-known magazines as “Hello!”, “Heat”, “National Geographic”, “Men’s Health” and “Empire” are mainly distributed in printed form. They all have online versions for mobile and tablet devices, but online medium is used by only nearly 30% of readers (Hammet). The secret of success is proper product positioning and high-quality content not available in other sources.
The interesting fact is that printed magazines are popular among Millenials generation! Michael Brunt, CMO of The Economist thinks that this is because youngsters often become tired of wide presence of gadgets in their life (Brunt). They become tired of overwhelming information flows in social media (Mahoney). And the way of relaxing for them is reading printed magazines with the content prepared specially for them. Brunt predicts, that “Readers will continue to value the experience of holding a print magazine in their hands; these publications will become increasingly identified as a luxury rather than an everyday item. In the next few years, I predict that print publications will be categorized as affordable luxury items”
I suppose newspapers and printed media in general should follow practices mentioned above to stay in the markets. They will never be the same as they used to be before. But they have all chances to become first-class niche products both in printed and online form. To be successful, they are to become something like vynil plates with high sound quality for music fans, but, being luxury items, they should be at the same time more affordable to the people.
Barthel, Michael. “Newspapers: Fact Sheet.” PewResearchCenter. PewResearchCenter, 29 Apr. 2015. Web. 7 Feb. 2016. <http://www.journalism.org/2015/04/29/newspapers-fact-sheet/>
Brunt, Michael. “Unpacking Print’s Luxurious Future.” Folio. Access Intelligence, 14 Jul. 2015. Web. 7 Feb. 2016. <http://www.foliomag.com/2015/unpacking-prints-luxurious-future/>
“Business Model Evolving, Circulation Revenue Rising”. Newspaper Association of America. Newspaper Association of America, 18 Apr. 2014. Web. 7 Feb. 2016. <http://www.naa.org/Trends-and-Numbers/Newspaper-Revenue/Newspaper-Media-Industry-Revenue-Profile-2013.aspx>
Hammet, Ellen. “NRS PADD – Print remains dominant medium for magazines.” Mediatel Newsline. Mediatel, 26 Aug. 2015. Web. 7 Feb. 2016. <http://mediatel.co.uk/newsline/2015/08/26/nrs-padd-print-remains-dominant-medium-for-magazines/>
Katz, Shai. “Israel: Dozens of articles were created by dint of a structured teaching process that incorporates new training tools and involvement of scientists.” Wikimedia Outreach. Wikimedia Foundation, 9 Dec. 2015. Web. 7 Feb. 2016. <https://outreach.wikimedia.org/wiki/Education/Newsletter/December_2015/Israel:_Dozens_of_articles_were_created_by_dint_of_a_structured_teaching_process_that_incorporates_new_training_tools_and_involvement_of_scientists>
Lee, Edmund. “The Year of the Paywall.” Bloomberg Business. Bloomberg, 14 Nov. 2013. Web. 7 Feb 2016. <http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2013-11-14/2014-outlook-online-publishers-paywall-strategy>
Mahoney, Sara. “Gen Y Battling For Balance, Wellness And Less Tech.” Marketing Daily. MediaPost, 16 Feb. 2015. Web. 7 Feb. 2016. <http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/243840/gen-y-battling-for-balance-wellness-and-less-tech.html>
“Newspaper Circulation Volume”. Newspaper Association of America. Newspaper Association of America, 30 Mar. 2015. Web. 7 Feb. 2016. <http://www.naa.org/Trends-and-Numbers/Circulation-Volume/Newspaper-Circulation-Volume.aspx>
“Niche Markets and Quality Products – the Future for Newspapers”. University of Huddersfield. University of Huddersfield, 4 Jan. 2016. Web. 7 Feb. 2016. <https://www.hud.ac.uk/news/2015/november/nichemarketsandqualityproductsthefuturefornewspapers.php>
Tarkhanyan, Lilit. “Armenian students inspire their teachers to join Wikipedia.” Wikimedia Outreach. Wikimedia Foundation, 7 Dec. 2015. Web. 7 Feb. 2016. <https://outreach.wikimedia.org/wiki/Education/Newsletter/December_2015/Armenian_students_inspire_their_teachers_to_join_Wikipedia>