Monday, April 02, 2007

Do Newspapers Have a Future?

Newspapers are dead … or maybe not. In the past week alone, I’ve read thoughtful observations on the subject in blogs by Scott Karp, Robert Scoble, Duncan Riley, David Strom and, most recently, Jeff Jarvis, just to name a few.

Everyone recognizes that the internet has challenged the very existence of print media (i.e., newspapers). Many have closed their doors. Others -- to survive -- have reduced the size of the printed page, thereby giving readers less. Advertising dollars, both commercial and classified, are shifting to the Web. Perplexed, newspapers are trying to figure out solutions.

Thus, last Thursday, the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University sponsored a breakfast seminar in New York City to discuss whether newspapers have a future. Hundreds of people in the NYC communications business came (including yours truly -- Makovsky is a sponsor of this ongoing breakfast series, covering multiple topics). Guest speakers were: Gary Pruitt, chairman, president and CEO of the McClatchy Company, a major owner of newspapers, and Dean Baquet, former editor of the Los Angeles Times and now Washington Bureau Chief of the New York Times.

Here are some of the enlightening points made by our panelists:

— 25-30% of 18-34 year olds still read newspapers daily.

— The best local newspapers today need:
▪ The best local advertising
▪ A good online supplement
▪ Niche publications within it
▪ To play an important watchdog role, keeping business and government on their toes
▪ To build cohesion in a community

— Many newspapers have cut back on both foreign and Washington DC coverage to the point where some members of Congress have trouble getting coverage in their own areas, thereby eliminating a check on scandals. "This is really not good for the country," one guest said.

— New and old communications channels gradually accommodate each other, but there will be casualties along the way until the market adjusts. For example, there were never more newspapers in the U.S. than in 1919. Then radio came in, and many newspapers went bankrupt. The same thing happened to radio and newspapers when TV was gaining popularity. Once the market adjusted, all three helped each other become profitable. "While the newspaper decline may continue for a few years, like before, the tide could turn again, and all of these channels could complement each other," the panelist advised.

— Because the web is an explosion of personal opinion, demand will increase for a more balanced, objective medium, and newspapers can play that role.

— The newspapers which survive will be more innovative than ever before. For example, perhaps newspapers need to consider starting specialty publications at universities, foundations and other non-profits. But there has to be a way of merchandising such publications and making them profitable.

— People trust newspapers. After September 11, newspaper circulation spiked. People who wanted in-depth coverage of what really happened turned to the tried and true.

Finally, the seminar underscored an underlying question: "Can we develop a new profitable business model where advertising continues to support journalism in a major way?"

I believe they can. Newspapers just need to find their place in today’s Wired World.

Technorati Tags: newspapers, Scott Karp, Robert Scoble, Duncan Riley, David Strom, Jeff Jarvis, print media, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University, Gary Pruitt, McClatchy Company, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, LA Times, NY Times, communications, public relations, business


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi -
Interesting thoughts. You can read my three cents here:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 11:34:00 AM  

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