What has long been a daily tradition across the country, scanning the daily paper over breakfast, is fast becoming obsolete. For the fifth straight year overall newspaper circulation saw substantial declines.
As someone with a degree in journalism with a wife working as a newspaper editor, this tends to concern me. The biggest question facing print media is why the decline?
Perceived bias – Many on both sides, but especially the right, point to a political bias as to the reason for a drop in circulation. This may play a role, after all is is almost seen as traitorous for a conservative to read the NY Times or a liberal to scan the Wall Street Journal.
Perceived drop in quality – Media critics, particularly on the internet, often speak about a decline in reporting from the “glory days.” While this may be a “chicken-egg” question in terms of the decline in circulation, it is part of the equation.
Internet/blogs – The “new media” is growing and grabbing more and more readers, possibly away from traditional media such as newspapers. The vast majority of Americans have access to the web – most in their own home.
24-hour TV news – Along with the internet, most homes have access to 24-hour news channels. Instead of trying to wade through several pages of the newspapers, viewers can watch the TV, get the highlights and briefs through the on-screen reporting and the ticker.
News cycle – Part of the appeal of the internet and TV is the reaction time to a news event – instataneous. Newspapers have deadlines in order to be printed and delivered. When events occur during the day, like the VT shooting, newspapers are always playing catch-up.
Visual audience – As a freelance photographer, I understand the power of a photograph. But I also understand that a photo can be misleading or incomplete. Because of this and other factors most people would rather see video of an event.
Lack of reading – Many of the younger generations, being more visual, avoid reading as much as possible. If they can see an event instead of read about it, that makes it that much easier for them to process.
Low return for ads – When you read a newspaper, how often do you look at the ads? Unless I have a paper and am looking for something specific like movie times, I always skip over all the ads. I never give them a second thought. This may not account for a drop in readership, but it adds to the over all decline in the industry as ad revenue is the main source of income.
I’m not sure if there is one reason for the decline. I think some or all of these are factors and will continue to be factors as the prestige of the print media continues to drop.
I do believe there will still be a home for print newspapers and news magazines into the foreseeable future. Many, especially the older generation, still prefer to have a paper in hand with their morning coffee.
The journalism profession will still be in operation, but changes in the dynamics of the way news happens and is reported should force changes in the emphasises and styles of the newspaper industry. The shift to the internet will continue to happen, as well as the emergence of reporting blogs.