Are newspapers dying?

Are newspapers dying?

Media | Judette Coward-Puglisi

January 27, 2009

I think they are. And it  is not slow and protracted but rather quite  fast and  painful.  And like any disease it’s spreading to other parts of the whole. TV and radio no doubt are feeling the pinch.

 There is only one reason why. Okay.  Make that two.  Printing and publishing are an expensive business; Web 2.0 is not. 

  The new media tools are faster, more pervasive, more instantaneous  reaching  millions more quickly than it takes for your eyes to scan this line. Still not a believer? Look a the recent headlines. Last week when  U.S. Airways jet was allegedly attacked by a "double bird strike" and the pilot forcibly water ditched in New York’s Hudson River the first on the scene was not CNN or ABC or NBC or CBS. Instead Heather DueittDennis Stratton, and Janis Krums got the scoop. Janis in particular had the world’s first and most memorable photograph taken from an angle that was almost surreal.

 Click their names. Check their Twitter streams. Go back to the day. Check out the tweets at   3:30 p.m. on January 15, 2009. Google them and read the rest. 

 This was yet another turning point in how news is delivered. Still surprised? I am not sure why, a few days after, when President Obama was inaugurated millions, including me, tuned into on With its outreach to facebook and the live constant updates from friends and strangers, this was broadcasting at its best except this was a new medium. Live TV had shifted and the movement was seismic. The inauguration became  a social/interactive experience,  136 millions viewers didn’t just watch they participated  and it underscored the power of the Internet to deliver video programming to a massive number of users simultaneously.

 I am not sure if the newspapers here at home get these new shifts and if they do, they certainly  don’t  embrace the qualities that make it unique, numbers driven. I can’t think of nay media house that doesn’t have a website, but with the exception of one, there is little social interactivity with the new tools.  The Express has made some inroads but their great experiment with Interactive TV is long dead. CNMG’s interactive site is two, now maybe three  weeks old. And there are no media houses with blogs. As for Twitter and using it within media fraternity, after a quick check with my friends who still write for the news, we may as well be landing Manning on the moon.

 Meanwhile  our best and most treasured newspapers are getting thinner. The best writers are leaving for PR and other independent pastures. And people are tuning out.  There is a   way to stop the bleeding but it requires foresight, quick action and willingness for old media to stop denying the existence of  the new.


9 thoughts on “Are newspapers dying?

  1. Judette, newspapers are certainly dying in the US but in the Caribbean, we are very much newspaper people so it is going to take longer for that trend to reach us. I believe it will happen but Internet penetration has to get better, and more people have to embrace technology. Also, media managers are also very old-school. When I functioned as the Guardian’s Internet manager, the powers that be didn’t see any sense in spending money to redesign the site because they couldn’t see any ROI, and there was a reluctance to allow editorial any input, it was still viewed as a IT domain. I see not they’ve redone the site but it still isn’t up to international standards mainly because they don’t understand what a news site should be, how online readers differ from print readers, or how the site could be used to enhance the Guardian brand. Express’s site isn’t sure what it wants to be and visually it just confuses the eye.
    As it is now, it’s the fringe media, us publishers and online magazines that have embraced technology, maybe because these areas are dominated by younger, more tech-savvy people and because in the fight to be recognised and capture a market of our own we have to be more creative and daring. Incidentally, the magazine industry in the US is exploring their online options more to ward off the fate that has befallen the newspaper industry. We are the ones with the blogs and the online videos, etc but we are not regarded as true media so even if we break stories no one pays us any attention and we still have to fight to get the attention of the PR industry and the advertising dollars.. you know that’s my pet peeve right?

  2. In this regard kudos to the Guardian who recently re-launched their website with Social Bookmarking and multimedia (video clips from CNC).

    I remember checking their local web traffic rankings late last year and they were in the 50s, trailing behind Express and Newsday, now they are at #31 passing Newsday not too long after the re-launch in Jan.

    Not sure how this will translate into purchasing an actual copy or ranking in the next media survey though, but it does show increased online interest in the Guardian and their willingness to embrace technology, although there is some tweaking to be done in terms of usability.

    The others will hopefully catch on, but I think as Laura indicated Internet penetration is a major factor, but I don’t think that means they should not wait.

  3. I think Newspapers have already started to make a downfall in the Caribbean. I myself have not purchased a paper in about 4 years I continually read online newspapers even though it really is a challenge to read Express online. My dad used to read the online paper on mornings then pick up the actual paper and read only the comics and the sports section, do the crossword and throw out the paper by the end of the day. He was adamant that the online newspaper sport section was horrible. and this happened not only with him but with his buddies too, so maybe newspapers should use this to their advantage . The Internet has now surpassed newspapers and all other media except television as an outlet for national and international news. Given the fact that online newspapers are supposed to attract huge numbers of readers and ad consumers, why is it that almost all of them are examples of the worst the web has to offer in the way of readability, design, layout, usability and information architecture?

    The only reason the newspapers get away with providing horrible online publications is that we allow them to, including me. I could understand why Laura’s pet peeve is just what it is and you are right!

  4. i read 99% of my news online via RSS feeds… yes the Trinidad Guardian revamped their site and put in Social bookmarking links but they are the only local daily without RSS as well…

    I do miss my gazette paper though… Its nice to pick up a week old paper old and find an interesting story that you may not have necessarily read the first time around…

  5. Still the Guardian has made strides and should be applauded. I am very much like Leigh and Hassan, I don’t bother to buy newspapers and I know several folks who don’t either.

    There are two things at work here, the emergence of on line and also the fact and I am swallowing here because I am not sure if Laura will condemn me but the quality of news and the writing and the fact finding is so piss poor. Where is Kathy Ann Waterman and Judy Raymond and Kim Johnson and so many others. Now I hear BC’s col. is no more. We have still have a few stars like Nazma Muller but journalists now write as if they are spent beings. And forget the research.
    But to be honest though newspaper may have no choice but to re think their on-line approaches, all the big advertisers have cut their budget in traditional advertising, I hear this all the time from my IABC colleagues who work in big corporate. Buzz marketing is now. It’s viral. It can spread. Newspapers will need to move with the times.

  6. Judette no need to swallow, I agree with you. I would like to think I am included in that list of stars though…lol. And yes, journalists are spent, they just aren’t paid well and most aren’t trained properly. Newspapers especially aren’t attracting quality writers because these days everyone wants to be an instant star so they gravitate towards TV and Radio. Writing is hard work, it’s a craft that a lot of people aren’t willing to slug away at. If folks do enter print, they use it as leverage for a better paying job and who could blame them.

  7. Sad but true…I must say for a quick catch up before work the internet is most convinient. But my favourite pasttime is to sit with a massive cup of coffee in bed on a Sunday with and Express and a Guardian (ok I do not have the Times (UK) or the Saturday Financial Times – I MISS Lucy and the Martin Lukes column) haha! Its total bliss…more people should try it!

  8. Laura’s comment evokes an image from my childhood – of my grandfather in the gallery doing exactly that – sipping his Toco grown coffee and reading the Sunday Guardian. I loved the comics (still do)! I continued the tradition with my own family and I love to see everyone reading through on a Sunday. During the week, I trek home with the newspapers and go through them, strewn all over the bed. Otherwise I tend to rely on RSS feeds to know what’s happening, specifically for my industry. It’s that time thing again; I feel sometimes as if I’m running on the spot. But, I love paper (in spite of my love for trees) whether the page is covered in print or just white and unblemished and ready for my pen.

  9. When my dad got his heart attack last year, he fell and died among mounds and mounds of newspapers. He was the quintessential old time journalist. He clipped out stories that he liked even from the 70s and kept copies of newspapers he published or produced whether to not they were a success.
    I shared his love and perhaps still do but news finds me now, I get links from my friends, I am a fervent ‘digger’ and blogs inform my insatiable desire to keep updated. I have no TV but rely on You Tube.

    Still I found this text by Andre Sullivan instructive. Sullivan is the editor of the New Republic, he said:

    "For all the intense gloom surrounding the newspaper and magazine business, this is actually a golden era for journalism. The blogosphere has enabled writers to write out loud in ways never seen or understood before. And in some ways, blogging’s gifts to our discourse make the skills of a good traditional writer much more valuable, not less. The torrent of blogospheric insights, ideas, and arguments places a greater premium on the person who can finally make sense of it all, turning it into something more solid, and lasting, and rewarding."

    Like Maria and Laura said, there is something simply irreplaceable about reading a piece of writing at length on paper, in a chair or on a couch or in bed. I guess that’s what my dad loved the best.

Comments are closed.