Newspapers Changing – Out of Necessity
Newspaper readership has been on a steady decline for several years, and we can expect to see print publications make additional changes in the future to simply stay alive in the ultra-competitive world of media.
News sources, as we know it, will continue to change. We can expect a greater reliance on technology and instantaneous news feeds.
People can be better consumers of news if they choose to do so. There are round-the-clock television news channels, news sites online and social media sites that all post information as it is happening.
There are also news aggregators that capture news stories and group them into similar topics. We no longer have to rely on one account of what is news. Instead, we can view reports from multiple sources and draw our own conclusions. The days of waiting for the evening news, or tomorrow’s newspaper, are things of the past.
Newspapers are struggling to retain subscribers and some are charging for their online access. Back in October, The Baltimore Sun announced a fee structure for online access.
According to their website:
The Sun will allow users 15 free page views a month on baltimoresun.com. But for unlimited access, users will pay either $2.49 a week or $49.99 for six months. Those who already subscribe to The Sun's print edition will receive discounted rates of 75 cents a week or $29.99 a year for unlimited access to the website. The Sun will offer an introductory rate of 99 cents for the first four weeks of online subscriptions.
Newspapers across the country are taking a look at similar pay-to-view models. Just last week, The Chicago Sun-Times announced that they, too, would institute a similar payment structure. The Associated Press reported that this move was in reaction to advertisers moving away from print and the economic downturn. This reasoning comes as no surprise.
Even locally, we are seeing changes to the news. The Frederick News-Post has announced that there will be some changes to its editorial format in 2012. The days of reading the same columnist each week may be gone with the addition of “up to 30 people,” according to a recent article that ran on the paper’s editorial page. Some current columnists aren’t happy about the proposed changes, but perhaps this is a move by the paper to make its content more varied and diverse.
However, this change may bring unintended consequences. There is the possibility of diluting the quality of coverage when writers only get one opportunity per month to share their viewpoints and cram it all into one 500-word column.
Additionally, the editorial columns may become more like blog posts on varied topics, rather than focused on state and local current events.
There’s no doubt that being in the newspaper business is tough. More and more people are relying on technology to access their news. The newspapers may risk alienating potential customers by charging for access to their coverage, especially since there is so much free content out there.
Immediately after last week’s tragic shooting at Virginia Tech, the “Twitterverse” was abuzz with details that mainstream media outlets hadn’t yet disseminated. Why pay for content when the same information can be accessed for free and in a faster manner? This is the challenge that newspapers will have to face head on now and in the future in order to remain solvent and relevant.