N – Newspapers

NI think it’s safe to say it’s been a tough few decades for newspapers. I talked about how Journalism jobs seem to be becoming more specialized and in some ways this makes sense, as the news in general gets smaller and tighter as an industry. But what has led to the steady decline in newspaper business? The obvious answer is our old friend the Internet. But I see a few specific elements that are causing more trouble for newspapers because of the Internet than other industries are seeing – say, books versus e-books.

The obvious one is that the Internet provided a new means of accessing the news, forcing them to react and start to try and provide the news in multiple channels. And, to provide it at an Internet-appropriate speed: so, basically instantly. Not the easiest thing, and for getting your facts straight, for doing good editing, a deadline and publication schedule and time is kind of a useful thing. That changes significantly with the Internet.

And then there’s the fact that search engines arose – increasingly giving people the feeling that they can find things on their own, and don’t need anyone else to do that sort of work for them. All of a sudden, is there as much value in the person doing that work, digging up the stories, reporting on them? When all of a sudden, everyone feels like they can do this.

And then you get people creating the content, too! Bloggers and the like, doing the work for free, on their own time. Saying whatever they want, with no editorial standard. Eroding our expectation of there BEING an editorial standard.

But no, the number one problem facing newspapers, in my opinion, is the fact that people expect things online to be free. Oh, and we don’t really like ads. Why buy a newspaper when the same paper gives the news online for free? So then some of them add pay-walls, and we’re up in arms. Paying for something that costs money to create, and which we used to pay for anyway… I will also say that regularly, the most ad-filled, cluttered websites I have seen are news sites. This has gotten better with time, or else I stopped going to their sites: I’m not sure which it is.

I’ve given a few of my thoughts, and I think these things are hitting newspapers harder than a lot of other types of writing. There’s free fiction online, after all, but I still see the value in paying for a good book. However, the news? If I can’t get it one place for free, I’ll just look elsewhere until I can get it for free. Right? That’s what they’re up against. At least in my opinion – what do you think is their greatest challenge?

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About CompGeeksDavid
Co-founder, editor, podcaster, web comicer, forum moderator, and writer for Comparative Geeks. Father, husband, geek, nerd, gamer, librarian, Christian, Libertarian, Science Fiction philosopher, and probably a number of other descriptors.

10 Responses to N – Newspapers

  1. Previous generations would start each day with a cup of coffee and a newspaper in hand…today we move at such a frantic pace we don’t even take time for that. Unless news agencies can keep it brief (5 minutes or less), like Newsweek did with “The Daily Beast,” we don’t have time for them…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, Newsweek… a news magazine that actually experimented with doing away with their print edition completely. The fact that the print seems to be coming back might be a good sign!

      I have started waking up earlier and starting my day a bit slowly with a cup of coffee (though I have not added the news to this routine) and I have to say I like it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. nembow says:

    Here in the UK, we’re used to having the BBC News website ad-free and for free. Most of our newspapers are free to read online too, so I think we’ve come to expect it now. The Times has a pay-wall, and it would cost me £6 a week to be able to access their website the same way I access the BBC’s for example. That’s more than twice what I pay for my TV license (which is what funds the BBC and allows me to watch TV).

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is a big difference! Some of it I guess is that the BBC likely has a much larger pool of people helping to fund it than the Times does, so it can spread the costs out further.

      As a lover of BBC entertainment shows, and BBC news on their online app, I have to say I am a fan. However, in the states I don’t see that model EVER taking off. The same amendment to our constitution that has us fighting over the separation of church and state would have us fighting over the separation of press and state! And given that both conservatives and liberals find aspects of our media that they are up in arms against… yeah, I could never see it coming around.

      But at least there is Doctor Who 🙂

      Thanks for commenting, and with the international perspective as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Gene'O says:

    I started out in newspapers. I may be the last editor who actually pasted up a physical page and initialed it and sent it to the guy who took the piece of paper and turned it into a plate. I witnessed the transition from carrying pages across the street to the printers to just pressing the send button first-hand.

    I think the biggest challenge newspapers have right now is accepting that the old business model is dead (and it’s been dead for awhile).

    They haven’t gotten it through their heads yet, that unless they have an exclusive or something that’s so local no one else will cover it, they’re paying overhead and salaries to people who are generating information that can be had elsewhere for free.

    That’s what the paywalls are about. They’re trying to recover the overhead, and really, there’s no way to make that up. Their budgets are blown, because if I really get the notion I can cover a story as well as them, use my social media to beat them to the punch, and by the time a story lands on their front page, all of my friends have heard the news.

    I have some friends who do online journalism, and they’ve consistently done a better job than Gannett covering some stories in my state recently. I’m talking about a handful of college students and recent grads running circles around what’s supposed to be one of the premiere news organizations in the country.

    Like

    • I work with the serials at the library (so the newspapers and magazines and journals, oh my!) and it’s interesting to look at all the various small, local papers. And to see the big AP stories on the cover, the national, international, celebrity sorts of news. Definitely things that a lot of their readers have probably gotten elsewhere. There are some weeklies, though, that seem more thoroughly local, and they will probably long outlast the others.

      My wife worked at a paper for a while, putting the content up on the web at 5 in the morning. While the paper as a whole, and the media company in particular, weren’t doing well, the online was profitable. New business model indeed.

      She then had to moderate the comments, and that’s probably a lot of the reason for the page views: some really dedicated commenters, all the really opinionated people you might expect. Anonymous comments. Since then, the paper has toyed with no comments, and with real-name commenting, which still shows them not getting the new business and the particular appeal it has.

      And I’ve said all of this without mentioning things like big news picking up stories from the Onion, which used to be available on street corners in Denver when I was there. Where it was pretty well known that it was a joke – but all of a sudden, you find it online, and it looks like truth! Apparently.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Gene'O says:

        The newspapers I edited were all-local. That was the selling point. People read dailies for statewide news and watched NBC or CNN for national and world news.

        I started out in high school as a part-time photographer and darkroom guy developing black-and-white photos. The editor I worked with mentored me, taught me newswriting, and helped me get sportswriting work with dailies while I was in college.

        We ran color photos only on the 4th of July and Christmas, on the front page, and those had to be taken three days in advance so a three-color separation could be done with room for error. One of the reasons I got out of journalism is because I was a managing editor for six or seven years and realized the only two ways for me to go in that industry were to be a small-time publisher or start over at the bottom of the food chain with a daily.

        Once upon a time – and this is not long after email became a standard business tool – I suggested to a publisher that we might benefit from a website. He told me that would just be a waste of time and they couldn’t see the money in it. How times have changed.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It takes either vision, or seeing other people in your industry doing it – especially an industry standard or best practice! And honestly, I’m still not sure the newspapers have either.

          Thanks for sharing!

          Like

          • Gene'O says:

            yw! and no, I don’t think they have either, not at the level I’m talking about.

            I won statewide journalism awards for things I can’t bear to look at now, hehe.

            Liked by 1 person

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