Monday, March 24, 2008

How have newspapers survived?

For the wired crowd, newspapers are a bit of a novelty. Unmanageable sheafs of paper delivering news that's a day old at best. Like tv, the news too is sometimes just a break between advertisements. So when pitted against the instantaneousness of the net, how has the daily goliath survived?

  • News is almost always a day old, if not more, save some of the stop-press items
  • You don't get to choose the news in the paper. You can choose the sections you want to read though
  • With its 40 odd pages, each the length of a dinner jacket, the paper's unwieldy at best
  • Environment hazard


  • There's an editor
  • You don't get to choose the news in the paper. For some of us, if we did, the breadth of our awareness would be narrow
  • Tradition and routine. We're comfortable with news being a day old. It's the optimum amount of time that we're okay with, knowing that reporters aren't relaying hearsay and that they've had a chance to confirm stuff they're reporting on. Editors have given it the thumbs up after a careful review
  • To pack tiffin

To me, it seems like 'For' wins the day. At this time.

The bigger question is how much longer can the tradition of newspapers hold fort against all the other forces? In an article in the New Yorker, Eric Alterman says "newspaper companies are losing advertisers, readers, market value, and, in some cases, their sense of mission at a pace that would have been barely imaginable just four years ago."

The reasons are many, and chiefly to do with competition from the net. Editors on the net are savvy about the audience they want, and with a decent editor at the helm, loyal readership is easy to build. Content-specific blogs, where the writer is often the editor, do quite well for themselves. The new information junkie sets up rss feeds from her favourite blogs and is wired for the day.

There is a semi-bright spot though. Online newspapers, i.e. the websites of the major newspapers that carry a cross-section of articles from the days' papers, are a compromise. That a newspaper runs a corresponding website gives the paper a way to connect with the crowd that's drawing away. Sadly though, the revenue a site like this generates through ads and the like probably isn't enough to sustain the site, given the reduced profits from decreasing circulation and falling rates for the print ads. Coupled with the fact that the online newspaper still needs the same machinery (journalists, editorial staff, reuters contracts, etc) to back it up as the printed paper, it's a lose-lose situation.

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