The way forward for newspapers
As the newspaper industry struggles to cope with its declining physical sales, analysts propose the solution going forward.
The daily and Sunday newspapers in the UK are hardly making a profit. Sales are dropping with each passing year. Previously, we talked about how shareholder expectations played a major role in the downward spiral of a once flourishing industry. But, is there a way to revive this medium?
Dr Roman Gerodimos, senior lecturer in Global Current Affairs at Bournemouth University, said, ‘Local newspapers fail to have a hook with the younger generation. People don’t dislike newspapers, it’s just that the current system is not working; something like i on the other hand, is working.’
According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the i had a daily circulation of over 100,000 copies in January this year. In the same post, Andrew Mullins, managing director of i and The Independent, said: ‘i’s first ABC figures prove that our belief in quality print media has not been misplaced.’
One year back The Times introduced the paywall. It immediately lost 90% of its online readership. A year on, it claims to have 100,000 subscribers behind its paywall. These individuals pay £2 a month for exclusive content.
Blogger, journalist and co-author of The Online Journalism Handbook, Paul Bradshaw, discusses the shortcomings of the paywall, its benefits and the importance of standing out when you’re behind one:
Chris Wheal, former editor of Insurance Times and contributor to The Guardian says, ‘When people go onto Amazon, they go to PayPal. People will forget that there was a brief period where everything on the net was free; they will get used to paying.’
But best-selling author Andy McDermott, whose novels have been sold in 30 countries and translated in 25 languages worldwide says, ‘If I find a paywall, I won’t bother reading it. If its news, I’ll read it on the BBC. I’m sure Rupert Murdoch hates the fact that we have a publicly funded body like the BBC for something he could have used to his benefit.’
Dr Gerodimos says that brand loyalty will play a big part in determining whether people will pay for exclusive content.
What are the other options newspapers have at their disposal to entice audiences in an age where they are fighting for attention with other forms of online and offline communication?
Multimedia and apps
Wheal says it all comes down to multimedia and utilizing all the tools on the web.
‘Local newspapers need to engage with audiences better. They are getting boring and mundane. Journalists need to be able to do audio, video and learn how to use social media. You need to engage with your readers. They are no longer passive consumers of content.’
Bradshaw says a new platform has emerged with the evolution of tablets like the iPad: ‘Newspapers today are having to deal with different types of consumption behaviour across multiple platforms. Apps can look attractive as there’s a payment mechanism built into it. But it can be misleadingly easy to think that you’re going to put out content and people will pay for it. People still have browsers on those platforms and can still access content for free.’
But media mogul Rupert Murdoch believes that the iPad will be the “game changer” for newspapers. His son James Murdoch, News Corp’s Europe and Asia chief told this website, ‘The problem with apps is that they are much more directly cannibalistic of the print products than the website. People interact with it much more like they do with the traditional product.’
Will apps be the future or will interactive multimedia determine the way news is shaped and consumed? Guess we’ll just have to take our ‘tablet’ and keep an eye on the web.