The End of the Print Newspaper?

The following is excerpts taken from a speech written for Master of Professional Communication student Debbie Kwan. For more on Debbie, check out her blog

The ongoing belief that print media is on its way out, well, is still ongoing. All signs point towards the Internet and social media as becoming our primary means for getting news. Left in the dust is one of the most ancient mediums for communicative story telling, the newspaper.

Traditionalists would argue that although it is certainly deteriorating in terms of popularity – the print newspaper still offers considerable value to the reader and has a place in the consumer market. For some reading text from a hot, radiant screen is incomparable to holding a tangible newspaper that is easy to view and truly one’s own to keep. E-readers have been mimicking the viewing style of newspapers for some time now, and for good reason.

But it would be naive to think that the industry isn’t shifting and newspapers aren’t trying to redefine themselves based on a more cost-efficient model.

As the 2008 recession hit, companies began to cut advertising budgets and allot greater portions to the Internet. To give you an idea of how much the industry has changed, in 1920, newspapers achieved market penetration of 123% in the U.S. This means the average American household received 1.23 newspapers. That number has fallen to well below 50% in the United States (State of the Media).

So how is print media surviving?

One strategy is not exactly new, but certainly reinvented.

If you have ever rode the TTC you’ve likely read Metro News.  Metro is an example of one newspaper that has reinvented the idea of advertising as a means to subsidize the cost of printing and distribution.  The model was first developed in 1833 by The Sun, a New York daily newspaper that was in circulation for 117 years. By dropping the price of their newspaper from 6 cents to 1 cent in 1833, The Sun drastically increased their viewership to compete with the other two giants in New York; the Times and Herald Tribune. In 1995 Metro delivered it’s first free daily in Stockholm, Sweden targeting the morning commuters. 17 years later, they have 67 editions and are positioned in 22 different countries, including 8 locations in Canada. It was a risky model that paid off. Metro News in Toronto now has a daily readership of more than 1 million and generates substantial ad revenue. And that’s just in Toronto alone!

This strategy appears sustainable, but only time will tell. Print newspapers are in stiff competition with a medium that has all the ingredients to appeal to today’s new media consumers: ease of use, instantaneous, mobile and cost efficient. The Internet as a source for news is a convenient choice given that websites have become one-stop shops for all things multimedia, and the wireless infrastructure to facilitate its growth will only continue to improve.  There is no doubt, however, that there’s a class of readers out there who will forever be proponents of the print newspaper. It is probably safe to say that print media is not dying just yet.

What do you think? Does print media still have a future or will society turn completely digital?

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