Will newspapers die?

A journalism student in Toronto, Canada, asked me some questions via e-mail about my old article about newspapers and online reading. Instead of just sending an e-mail out in the void I thought I’d persist my answers here:

1. Do you think it would be best for newspaper publications to get rid of their print and go strictly online only? Why or why not?

I think they should keep their print papers for a while longer. It’s a simple question of profit and catering to what users want. If you have thousands of users that want their paper, and it’s economically justifiable, just keep it.

The tricky part is determining how much loss in paper subscribers you should tolerate before shutting down the huge printing presses. I have no good answer to that other than to know your numbers. Paper profit needs to cover paper printing and distribution. Journalism costs can be split between channels. Do the math.

2. Many people believe newspapers are dying and eventually will no longer exist. What are your thoughts on this?

I think they will persist, just not their paper versions. Many of them are looking at dwindling subscription numbers, year after year, and are trying to figure out what to do. How do you move to the digital worlds while keeping quality, relevance, and profit.

The iPad is one way to get people to pay for news again, and some newspapers are seeing success doing that. Over a longer haul just the iPad won’t be enough, you need to be able to deliver your news to wherever your customers want them. Generally, this means being able to get your content on all kinds of devices, both mobile and desktop. The only format that can really do that, and still deliver a somewhat consistent design across devices, is HTML and CSS. Building one native app for each platform is just not worth it.

So it’s simple really: newspapers that figure out how to transition to digital (while still getting paid enough to afford quality journalism) will persist, all others will (slowly) die. This means an end to both paper-only newspapers, and those that fail to find the right payment model.

8 responses to “Will newspapers die?

  1. The interesting effect of all this will come in about 5-10 years, when people born in the 80’s will reach boss and CEO positions in the big media corps.

    Most of these people will by then never have subscribed to a printed newspaper.

    And according to stats (lies, damn lies, stats) even less of the people born in the 90′ or 00′ will have done so.

    Future bosses and CEO’s will therefore make things change. A lot, I guess.

  2. I don’t know the newspapers. I think they’re classic and classics never die. But I’m sure that magazines’ print versions will die in someday. But it doesn’t mean the death of magazines. iPad and other tablet devices will change a lot of things. As you see they’ve allready started to change.

  3. If you check India’s newspapers industry you will really shock that How big is this…and in how many different language papers publish in India…its not tolerable for us to miss our newspaper for single day…in New delhi in whole year only on 2 days paper dont print and those 2 days without newspaper is lyk hell.

    ipad and latest technology are coming but still people really need to read the print version…they like to carry the newspaper with them to keep the cutting with them…

    I dont think so its easy for Newspaper Industry to vanish…

  4. I think hard print newspapers will eventually die because you already have online publication of the same thing and some people already find it easier to subscribe instead of stopping at the garage everyday to get the same news stories available online

  5. Newspapers in small towns have the chance today to not make the same mistakes as their urban counterparts. The key is hyper-local content. This is what is important to those living in small towns. World news is free, but local news is valuable. Local business advertising, combined with local news and community content is the key to newspapers transitioning to a digital world.

  6. Not only do I think newspapers will die a slow and painful death, I think email will die as well. Anyone I know that is under 20 never emails me, it’s always text. I realize email is important for business right now but not so sure about in the future. Nothing I hate more than sifting through tons of emails every morning, rinse, repeat.

  7. Like you said, if newspapers start to be online only, their profits would be much lower. It would also allow small newspapers to compete easily because their overhead would be decreased.

  8. We are in the world of information and newspapers are a means through which people get informed. Therefore, newspaper can only die when people no longer look for information, but as long as we want an informed society, newspapers will thrive.

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