Category Archives: Newspapers

Local newspapers were much thicker a decade ago. Why are local newspapers shrinking? What’s in store for the future of newspapers?

The way forward for newspapers

As the newspaper industry struggles to cope with its declining physical sales, analysts propose the solution going forward.

Can they reinvent themselves before its too late?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.’

The Paywall

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.

Did the internet kill the local newspaper?

Was it just the advancement of the digital age or were local newspapers suffering even before that? Senior journalists and editors describe what went wrong and how.

Two former journalists from the Bournemouth Echo talk about how things have changed with regard to local journalism and the power of the internet:


While doing my work experience at the Bournemouth Daily Echo, a senior journalist told me to hold the local newspaper. ‘You see this paper,’ she said, ‘It’s only a skeleton of its former self.’ A few months later Hattie Miles, who spent 22 years working for the Bournemouth Echo, was made redundant by the same newspaper.

Local newspapers all over the country face the same problems: pagination and redundancy. But why is this happening? Has the internet really eaten so deep into its pie?

Gareth Weekes, former editor of the Bournemouth Echo, said: ‘The internet caused our (newspapers’) downfall. The internet was just starting when I left (The Echo) in 1997. We didn’t have a website. Emails were only just starting. It’s undoubtedly the effect of the web.’

Newspapers were never only about news and editorials. Advertising always played a big role in newspapers. When the internet came along, advertisers saw the trend of people migrating online. They wanted to be where the action was. It was much easier for them to migrate online and meet with success.

‘Our papers sold in abundance because people bought it for three reasons – property, jobs and motors advertising,’ said Weekes, who blatantly admits that even he doesn’t think twice before visiting the internet for all three fields today.

Former editor of Insurance Times and media lecturer, Chris Wheal fondly remember how, as an avid sports fanatic, his only update of the Saturday night football games was the 10p (pink) sports paper that was produced on Sunday morning. Today that information is available live – in an instant.

Lead Picture Block from Bournemouth Evening Echo; circa 1992

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Case of Unrealistic Expectations

Wheal believes that local newspapers have shrunk because they have set the benchmark so high for themselves that they are virtually chasing unrealistic profit-margins.

‘If newspapers were prepared to face the same profit margin as Tesco’s, most of them would not have needed to cut jobs. Newspapers need to look at their turnover and income from advertising; if they made 10% profit and they could have 90% of that as cost, they could have carried on employing the same number of journalists, producing the same quality product.’

He adds, ‘They cut costs, which made the product worst, which means people stopped buying it, which means advertisers stopped advertising. Its just a downward spiral.’

Online Journalism Blog founder and journalist, Paul Bradshaw, agrees with Wheal, but he believes that the internet did not kill the local newspaper; it merely rubbed salt into its already bleeding wounds.

Bradshaw explains how in the 70’s and 80’s, the newspaper industry was thriving, which in turn attracted shareholders who expected the same profit margins every year. This led the industry to expand, buy buildings and printing presses and, in the process, accumulate debts so large, it is still suffering from its impact.

‘It’s easy to blame the internet, which is just a technology which is changing consumption. The lack of the local newspaper to compete with that is a better question to ask,’ concludes Bradshaw.

Click here to hear how he describes the floundering local print industry in the United Kingdom.

So while digitisation has taken the printed text onto another platform, it looks like the local newspaper industry was already in a fragile state much before that. In some ways, the internet may actually have resuscitated it, instead of killing it.