Are Printed Newspapers Yesterdays News?

In week 3 of Surviving Disruptive Technologies we turned to printed newspapers and how the Internet has proved to be a disruptive technology.

This is an interesting area as newspapers have been a part of daily life for many years. They can be brought and read by everyone, whether you finished school, hold an PhD, work, study, are unemployed; it doesn’t matter, they are available to all (assuming that you can afford one and that you can read). In fact Jefferson said;

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter”

He felt that order to set up and maintain a democracy people had to be educated and literate and newspapers were essential to this.

Not only are people reading the printed press less, advertising revenue is also on the decline, but more importantly future printed press buyers don’t have them in their mind set. If and when they want news they will Google it or go to one of the many on-line content providers. This article in the Economist sums up the situation for the printed press. The future buyers of newspapers are not being cultivated.

For Assignment 3 we have been asked to put forward suggestions for what we think the newspapers can do to halt this decline. Now obviously I am not an industry expert but the question did get me thinking. Should we even try and save the printed press?

According to the latest figures from Ofcom the use of tablets has tripled among 5-15 year olds since 2012, rising from 14% to 42% over that period. While just over a quarter (28%) of infants aged 3-4 now use a tablet computer at home (presumably belonging to their parents).  They are the future newspaper readers and for them to do anything on a tablet/internet/smartphone, watch films, play games, learn, read etc, is normal. The act of popping to the shop to buy a paper which then needs to be put in the appropriate recycling bin, would probably seem strange to them.

I used to love buying papers, The Times and Guardian, Sunday Time and the local paper and I was adamant that I would never read a paper or book on a tablet. Now I can’t remember when I last brought a paper (except the Isle of Wight County Press, a local paper, but that doesn’t count!) and I don’t miss it at all (although I have found memories of spending the whole of a Sunday morning with half a rain forest spread out on the table).

There are lots of reasons for this. The waste of paper. The cost. I know they aren’t that expensive but, on the whole, I can get my news for free and that includes flitting between different sources. I think we are also beginning to read differently now. The internet has made us look at more but for less time and we move across and between content quickly and frequently. According to research when we access a newspaper on-line we spend less than 15 minutes reading it. The Sunday Times used to take all morning but I just don’t have the time to do this anymore.

Advertising is a major money maker for the printed press but we can still advertise on-line. The internet has changed marketing too. Sure we can still put an advert in the printed paper but we can also do the same on a digital source. In fact we can advertise our business, services etc for free or cheaply. Just create a FB, G+, Twitter page. You have something to sell just put an ad on e-Bay or similar. Looking for a job or house? There are hundreds of sites to search for free.

I did start this with the aim of finding ideas for ways of saving the printed press but the more I thought about it the less inclined I was to save them (the loss of jobs in the industry would be the only downside but maybe it would just change the jobs people are doing and create other kinds of roles).