There is quite a debate going on with regard to the future of Newspapers. Will they be around? Can they be around? Do we need them to be around? If they stick around, what will they look like? Loaded questions, yet nobody really seems to have all the answers.
I think it's fair to say that what once made a Newspaper dramatically different can no longer be considered a point of differentiation. Newspapers deliver the news, and with so many sources for obtaining news these days, we really don't need to wait to get a Newspaper to find out what our politicians, business leaders, and favorite athletes are up to. Obama uses Twitter, Mergers & Acquisitions can be read about online within minutes of their stories being broken and many popular pro-athletes have their own blogs and are keeping their fans up to date and engaging in direct conversations with them.
So, what value does the good ole Newspaper have today? It's in printed format - ready to read and easy to read if you don't have a access to a personal computer, blackberry or access to TV or Radio. I guess one can argue that. It's written by trusted sources - those that work for the Newspapers are considered to be professional journalists who are paid to write compelling and accurate content and not to be pegged in with a group of 'bloggers' who write for the fun of it or to state their claim over what is happening in the world. It might have something exclusive - a story that you can't pick up anywhere else, perhaps an interview or some local 'feel good' article that occurred in your city that you would have otherwise never heard about.
All of the above are good reasons to keep Newspapers going, but at the end of the day, the Newspaper is a business and based on sliding numbers of subscribers and advertisers (the two factors that generate revenues for the Newspaper), the good ole Newspaper is on the verge of extinction. The New York Times, Boston Globe and others have all reported on their struggles, especially in this downturn economy. Young people don't read newspapers, so what does that say about their future? I believe you need to offer true value to sustain your business over time, so what is the value that the good ole Newspaper is going to offer?
Some say they need to take it online. Some say they need to reduce the frequency of papers and have them only 3 times a week instead of everyday, because they don't break the news anymore and we don't need it everyday. I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that continuing to rely on subscription revenues for a printed format that is furthermore supported by Advertising is likely not the way forward. With household internet penetration at an all-time high throughout most of the world, it's fair to say that people are now getting used to getting their news for free. With the auto, housing and banking sectors in a downturn, the advertising revenues that those major categories typically provide are disappearing and whatever is left is moving to online channels. The emergence of Social Media Sites, Portals and Classified and Shopping Sites and Job Sites has eaten in to their content share and has taken most of it away from them as well.
I've never been a big Newspaper guy myself, so I can't say that if they do move to a fully online model and change the focus of their content offering, that it will make much of a difference to me. What do you think?