The newspaper industry was further shaken on September 7, as their representative trade group, The Newspaper Association of America, officially changed its name to The News Media Alliance. The organization has represented only the printed news industry since 1887.
News online will now be represented by the organization, as well as printed newspapers. Until now, according to the New York Times, media sources that did not have a printed edition of their news could not join the organization. It was recently deemed that the news media websites are needed to join forces with more traditional newspapers, but are their needs too diverse?
The Newspaper Association of America had a membership of 2,700 newspapers in 2008, but in 2016, just eight short years later, there are only 2,000 newspapers in their membership. Since most print publications are transitioning into media industry websites, it made sense to join forces. Most Association members have both an online and a print edition anyway, but now they will accept members with only online editions.
The newspaper industry giants, such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today are making the transition to the internet with ease. Putting their newspapers’ content online works well for them because they have a wide readership that has not been strictly limited to a single geographic location in a long time. Many of the larger newspapers in other major cities have also made the transition with grace, attracting readers and advertisers from all over the country.
News online, however, has not overtaken the print version yet. At the present time, more than one-half of the newspaper audience still receives a print paper, according to Nielsen Scarborough. That percentage is down, though, since the advent of the online option. Traditionally, more than two decades ago nearly everyone received a printed newspaper.
The newspaper industry will continue to provide a print paper for most cities for perhaps decades to come, but as requests for those printed papers shrink, the cost of print per paper will increase. This impacts their advertisers, as well as their costs per edition. Smaller newspapers are already feeling the pinch of reduced print readership. Many have merged, banding together with neighboring towns, while others have folded.
The question of news online vs. the print version is not really whether or not some people prefer a print paper because many still do, rather the question is whether print news will survive into future decades and whether the digital format will continue to support local news and advertising adequately. Merging small newspapers under larger corporations can impact the way local news is covered. Placing news online means there is more incentive toward national news, that appeals to everyone, rather than community events.
News online means the content is for everyone, no matter how distant, but what about local news, local reporting, and local advertising. What good is it for the corner restaurant, strip mall bakery, or downtown clothing boutique to get tens of thousands of page views via the local online news site if less than 20 percent of those are even from people in the same state?
Without advertising, of course, there is no newspaper, and without local newspapers, who is going to go out and expose those local scandals, cover those local fires and mishaps, or cover the local elections? Who is going to do those local business and human interest stories that keep a community alive?
The newspaper industry is still viable, but most newspaper outlets, local, regional, national, and international, have made the transition to placing their content online, in addition to or in some cases instead of print publishing. Still, is this transition working out well for small town news?
Small town newspapers can benefit from the low cost of publishing online, but can they reasonably provide the same kind of advertising to their ad clients that they provided previously. Can they still reach a local audience in the same way, and with the same frequency that the print version delivered to the doorstep did, back in the 1950s?
Newspaper industry advertising, especially in small towns is not only vital to the paper, it is vital to small business. While there may be a few gaps in the reach of the online edition, the news online does still attract local readership. The biggest problem is in the perception of advertisers that it doesn’t reach the target anymore because of lowered circulation of the print edition. Even a slight drop in circulation can be perceived as a major decline in the value of a newspaper’s advertising.
Local Newspapers whether online or in print provide a major service to small business. Their contribution should not be underestimated, and that symbiotic relationship is what keeps local news, community activities, and local business alive.
News online, at least so far, leaves at least a couple of gaps in meeting the local needs. There is a dual need, for both local content and local advertising, that newspapers have traditionally filled.
The newspaper industry reporters, historically at least, were the ones who kept down corruption and raised public awareness of issues. Newspaper reporters are traditionally the ones who actually did the brunt of the reporting that goes on in this country.
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The TV news industry is the second in line with a slightly more regional approach, based on the strength of their signal in most cases. Unfortunately, the local television industry is also faltering, giving way to both cable channels and the rise of the internet, according to Madison.
News online does have several benefits over the traditional newspaper industry. The savings in paper, ink, and printing equipment are probably among the greatest advantages of online publishing. Add to that the cost of delivery and additional highly skilled staff to run the presses and the pre-press art, and it is easy to see why it is far cheaper to stop the presses.
The newspaper industry represents a lot of local jobs as well. A loss of print editions would mean a loss of local jobs, as well as a potential loss in profits. Already local newspapers are consolidating their print facilities, with one facility printing dozens of papers that used to print their own papers. That represents a huge loss in jobs, and the trend continues.
Still, the newspaper industry with the traditional print format and local coverage, is a great and historic institution, Replacing all of its services with a website does leave a certain void, both emotionally and practically. The decline and eventual death of print publications could be inevitable, at least eventually over the decades of this century or the next, and yet, how can individuals and communities fill the holes left by print newspaper media?
Can news online and the newspaper industry both be fairly represented by The News Media Alliance?
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