The evolution of today’s newspapers?

10033182_2 You see it in headlines everywhere.  You can practically hear them clanging the church bells to signal it’s all over.  "Newspapers are dying.  Circulation is dropping.  Blah, blah, blah." Which of course, sends advertisers into a panic.  Maybe a newspaper buy is foolish?

Not so fast.

David Reich, an expert on such things, suggests that the death knoll is premature and I tend to agree with him.

Are the publishers under incredible pressures?  You bet.  Has the competition stepped up their game?  Indeed.  Is there simply more competition?  Without a doubt.  Are more young people turning to the internet to get their news?  By the droves.

So how can David and I remain optimistic?

Ask yourself this.  If you want to dive into the news of your local community, where do you turn?  If there’s a natural disaster like a tornado or scandal at your local university, where do you go?

Research shows that most of us still turn to our local newspaper when we want to be in the know.  Which makes sense.  They’re right here, gathering the facts and creating tons of fresh content every day.  Now, it’s true that many of us may go online to the paper’s website rather than read the actual paper.  But, it’s still who we trust to give us the straight scoop.

Do I think today’s newspapers need to step it up and compete differently?  Yes.  I think they need to recognize that how (paper versus online or some other delivery model) they deliver their news is less important than understanding the news they can uniquely deliver. 

I also think they need to get very comfortable straddling their historical place in the community and their need for being a part of this century. Check out this thought provoking by Jason Kintzler over at Social Media Today.  How newspapers could harness and leverage the power of social media.

What do you think?

18 comments on “The evolution of today’s newspapers?

  1. Dennis says:

    Drew this is very topical. There are many facets, but since this is a marketing blog, this is my marketing take on things:

    Newspapers must understand that their core product is not ‘news’ – but the ‘truth’ or ‘entertainment’ or whatever. This fundamental need will never go away – even though the actual product – a physical paper – may evolve. The challenge is how to build a new business model in the new environment – not if or how to deliver their product online.

    I suspect that some time in the future, when the blogosphere breaks most ‘news’ stories, the TRUTH will be at a premium again. Then newspapers may again be able to charge a fee for something that got lost in the last few decades when quality investigative journalism became subsidized by commercial sponsorship (advertising.) And this may happen irrespective if the physical paper product survives this step change.

  2. But what if you don’t believe the newspapers are providing “truth” anymore? Particularly on subjects like government, politics, environmentalism, etc. – all the really important issues where the truth is absolutely necessary?

    When your newspapers are patently biased on practically all these issues, where else is one to go but the internet. In many cases, the experts the newspapers go to for the story are already available on the internet – without the slanted reporting.

    No wonder people are leaving in droves.

  3. Simon says:

    As a former journalist (like a rat I left a potentially sinking ship to become an entrepreneur), I agree with what you say.

    Newspapers/websites need to deliver what they are unique at delivering. Here in central Ontario we have an excellent community newspaper – it’s at the heart of the local community because it offers hyper-local news, right down to reports from the local Lions Clubs. That’s what it does best. (It’s online offering isn’t there yet, but…)

    The trouble is, many newspaper companies are stuck with a mindset from a couple of decades ago. I’ve been in that kind of environment (it’s stifling), and changing them is like turning an oil tanker 180 degrees mid-Atlantic.

    Journalists do some things well: provide accurate information targeted at their audience. It’s the targeting of the right audience (in the right way) that is key.

  4. I agree, it’s not all doom and gloom for newspapers, especially those making an effort to leverage social media. Rochester’s very own Democrat & Chronicle is an example.

    Readers who register at their site are given the tools to run their own blog. And I have to say the writing quality from some of the bloggers rivals that of the editorials. However, it has not reached the point where contributors are shaping the news that appears in the print edition.

    Perhaps they will evolve to that point over time. But for now, at least they are making an effort.

  5. Brett Rogers says:

    I agree with Robert Hruzek… I believe many people no longer believe that newspapers provide the truth. If “the truth” is best discerned in the middle ground between two different perspectives, then therein lies the reason most of us gather our news online – we can quickly scan information, compare perspectives, and get broader context, when necessary. We come to our own conclusions based on multiple sources for those stories / issues that matter most to us.

    Newspapers are dirty, not “green,” difficult to search for the information we want… lots of reasons why newspapers are inefficient and declining.

    I like print matrial – I read all the time. The newspaper isn’t really offering me anything different than online. Most of the stories are AP stories, which are just as available online. If newspaper is to survive, it has to niche itself heavily along its strengths. I always enjoyed Rob Borselino’s writing in the Register…

  6. Jay says:

    I don’t think newspapers will ever go away, and the main reason is they’re tactile. Regardless of how great the internet delivers relevant content, I can’t hold it, underline it, or clip it out. The role of the newspaper will change over time, but it won’t disappear.

  7. We definitely don’t believe newspapers will become obsolete but when you asked where do we turn when when newsbreaking events occur, we’d say television and then internet. But we must say that they definitely won’t go away due to various thing you can do with them – as stated above. Good article!

  8. David Reich says:

    Yes, local is the key for the future of newspapers. If, in the future, as a commenter said above, we get our breaking news from blogs, I think we’ll be in big trouble. How will we be able to rely on the accuracy? If newspapers and other major news organizations with big resources can sometimes get it wrong, just imagine what will happen when our news comes from citizen journalists? I scares me, frankly.

  9. Dennis,

    Interesting points. Do you think that newspapers used to be about something other than news? Or is it that with the internet, 24 new TV etc., they can no longer be the leader in that category?

    You’re right about the lack of deep, investigative journalism in the other media. If newspapers didn’t do that kind of reporting — who would?


  10. Robert,

    Believing as you do….could your local newspaper provide anything of value to you? Or no matter what changes the industry made…are you just done?


  11. Simon,

    Agreed on the local coverage. So where does that leave papers like USA Today and the Wall Street Journal? Are they niched enough that they’re insolated from the erosion of newspapers?


  12. Jesse,

    Are most of the bloggers writing about news-related topics? Do you know if there’s any screening done (name verification via e-mail etc) before someone can begin posting?

    I’ve seen lots of newspapers allow comments on their digital paper, but I’m not sure I’ve seen any that allow readers to initiate the conversation.

    Bravo to them for making the effort indeed!


  13. Brett,

    I’ll ask you the same question I posed to Robert. Is there anything the newspaper could offer to win you back?

    And I am in total agreement about Rob’s work. He’s missed.


  14. Jay,

    Would you say that holds true for books as well? Will Amazon’s Kindle ultimately fail for the same reason?

    I wonder if your theory (which I tend to agree with) is more true if we’re talking daily, local paper which is often read for leisure versus a Wall Street Journal sort of offering. What do you think?


  15. David,

    So how does the future look for papers like USA Today and the WSJ? They clearly aren’t covering any sort of local news. I’m curious — what do you think the appeal of USA Today is?

    As for accuracy — you (of course) are on point. We have no way to verify if a blogger is providing facts or fiction. Or even if their interpretation is accurate. But, how do you respond to some of the earlier comments are accuracy in terms of bias and slanted reporting?


  16. David Reich says:

    USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, and to a degree, The New York Times are exceptions to the “local” idea. USA Today, as the sort-of McDonald’s of newspapers with a real strength in its audience of travelers; The Wall Street Journal for business news; and the NY Times as the “paper of record,” investigative reporting and columnists. But all of these papers will expand their presence online and eventually they’ll figure out how to really monetize their sites.

  17. David,

    Can you envision a day when there are no printed newspapers?


  18. online news says:

    It’s no doubt that in couple of years printed newspapers will become totally obsolete

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