Posted on June 6, 2014 in – Publishing, Industries

The Survival of the Newspaper in a Digital Age


Amidst the statements of ‘newspapers are dead’ comes an article from Vanity Fair’s Michael Kinsley, who believes that the newspaper will live on forever. He says there will always be a demand for high-quality news – enough at least to allow for the survival of the newspaper in a digital age.

The ongoing decline of newspapers over recent years has seen them either go bankrupt, get sold for very little or have to fire many of their staff. With the bulk of print newspaper’s revenue coming from advertising (somewhere around 90%) the decrease in circulation is shrinking that revenue source. Online advertising for digital editions costs less than print advertising and with many people refusing to pay for online news, the industry is truly becoming survival of the fittest.

Liquid State - Black and white photo of passengers reading on the train

When newspapers, not tablets and phones, passed the time on the train.

At the start of the internet all information was free. It was expected that advertising would more than make up for lost revenue – but that didn’t exactly go to plan. As online ads are generally ignored, websites cannot charge much for them. Along with this, with the excess of free news available on the net, how do newspapers expect to stay afloat? Bloggers and other websites offer so much news and information for free (without any sense of duty to the truth, mind you) but it is often from newspapers that they source their information.

CEO of the New York Times Company, Mark Thompson, believes that the increasing number of bloggers and other cheap competition will actually create a demand for quality news, however, and more people will therefore be willing to pay for it. The Times are aiming to get as much revenue from their readers to make up for the lack of advertising revenue. The first plank of their new strategy is to develop additional offerings for those who would pay for individual articles without having a subscription, and offering even more to those who pay for the full subscription.

Other pundits have predicted more and more news sites will set up paywalls on their websites, ending the era of free news online. As for print editions, industry analyst Ken Doctor says by 2020 we will be used to having only a few a week, or maybe just The Sunday Paper. Another industry expert, Jeffery Cole, agrees and predicts that it will only be the largest and the smallest of the medium that will survive. He says The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal will be the only four major dailies left in print form as well as small local newspapers.

As said in a blog post, ‘Five reasons print newspaper will survive’, “E-books were supposed to make print books go away. Television was supposed to kill the radio star, and home video was supposed to off movie theatres …and yet we still have all these media formats”. But the older generations who have previously read the paper at the breakfast table daily are, well, getting older. The demand for newspapers will gradually change. As a Generation Y’er, I don’t think I’ve bought an actual newspaper in a very long time… and I could probably count on my fingers the number of them I have bought. Online is a much easier way to find the most up to date news, whether it’s the closest to the truth or not, and many versions are easily accessed with just a click, giving the reader enough information to completely understand the entire story from different backgrounds. And maybe it isn’t ‘quality journalism’ but many papers are lowering their standards of what is supposed to be quality journalism anyway, by employing less experienced, cheaper writers.

I agree with Doctor and Cole that the newspaper will soon be a ‘vintage’ object that can be found on special occasions in the local newsagency… if they are still in existence as well. But I think it will take longer for the daily papers to disappear than by 2020. The demand is still there. As newspapers become scarcer, the people who want to read them will be willing to pay more for the privilege.