Newspapers: What does the future look like?

by Ron Kunitzky March 24th, 2009 

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?

Ron Kunitzky

Ron Kunitzky, an expert in strategic business affiliations and partnerships is the founder of Geyser Marketing Group, and has successfully brokered partnership marketing programs for companies as varied as Coastal Contacts, Dell Computer, NASDAQ, and 1-800-GOT-JUNK?

Geyser Marketing Group

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8 Responses to “Newspapers: What does the future look like?”

  1. Infonote says:

    The advantage of newspapers and magazines is detailed analysis of an event.

    True blogs and twitter allow you to get news in real time. But how detailed? Does it contain interviews from various sources?

    In my opinion, magazines should not try and compete with the internet but focus on more detailed analysis.

    An example. If there is an airline crash, Twitter will be the first to deliver the news. Blogs will follow with a more detailed story.

    The next day you go and buy the newspaper and it will contain a summary and interviews with for e.g. survivors, air traffic controllers etc.

  2. Lee says:

    Big daily newspapers are done. I love newspapers but haven't had a subscription in a decade, I just buy an occasional paper when I have time to luxuriate with a cup of coffee over a leisurely breakfast. Or waiting for a plane at the airport. A twenty-something co-worker has never purchased a newspaper in her life. It's done. Moving on.

    However, a paper that I do read very regularly is my free local weekly paper. It has local news, and covers local issues that actually impact my life, and of course, those great coupons and ads for local businesses. The internet news sources and blogs are not so good at this kind of local, small neighbourhood detail. Maybe they will but right now, this still has value for me.

  3. I agree that traditional newspapers are going to struggle going forward, and I get most of my news online (PC / Smartphone / Ipod), but there's still something to be said for the tactile sensation of sitting down on a Sunday morning with a good coffee, and the features section of the sunday paper.

  4. Michael D says:

    Other than for nostalgia I can't see any reason for getting newspapers anymore. I have noticed that people still give much value to one being in the newspaper (vs say being on Digg or even Yahoo! homepage), but do we keep them around just for that?

    I say kill them and move the reporting and journalism online, where we can find it.

  5. Most major newspapers have their online editions in any case, but let's face it folks, their days are numbered! The trees it takes to make the paper is another issue which is not in favour of print media at all.

  6. A Michael – the problem for newspapers if they move completely online is that they then struggle for relevance.

    As is seen by the recent whine by big online content providers who want special treatment from google, once they move online, they're battling much more nimble online-only content producers.

    The barrier for entry into the print media is high, just as the newspapers like it. I can't just start to print a newspaper in the same way that I can start a blog.

    Newspapers will try to milk every last drop of this barrier to entry while they can, before the inevitable happens.

  7. Rupert Murdoch thinks that newspapers should charge for online content the way his Wall Street Journal does.

  8. I think we should just let the market decide, and if newspapers are going to continue, they will likely have to evolve. Like I said… just let the market decide its fate though. And if it determines that the news paper industry isn't profitable, then so be it. As a country we can't hold on to baggage, just for the sake of having it, hehe.

    Till then,

    Jean