Death of the newspaper and rise of social media

December 30, 2008

in Citizen Journalism, Community Marketing, Online PR, Social Media

I personally do not buy newspapers, I never have done and that is the honest truth.  I source news via radio travelling to and from work and online.
In my previous role as Head of Marketing for an ISP, all staff communicated the latest news through sharing links to the BBC (local and national) and industry news sites.  Your workplace may also have a culture whereby you share online news and features from sources relevant to your company’s industry?

The only newspapers my colleagues read were the free Metro papers they were handed on public transport.  With the introduction of the iPhone and mobile broadband, many commuters perhaps now prefer reading news on deck than the free papers where broadband connectivity is available?

Although I work in a high-tech industry where print based news is a rare sight, at the same time I also fall into the Generation Y label.  So, to gain further insight I recently questioned the ‘baby boomers’ (my parents, relatives and friends) whom I know purchase broadsheet papers.  What I was surprised to find is the majority only purchased the weekend papers as they too read online news at work and at home.  Taking this further my grandparents are the only group I found to still have the paper delivered on a daily basis, so are these findings indicative of the decline in print based news?

Empirical study shows increase in online news
A recent article from The Guardian Digital Media entitled Web overtakes newspapers as source of news in US survey retrieved via my RSS reader on 27 December 2008 supports this thinking.  The article includes the following statistics from Washington-based Pew Research Centre:

  • The number of consumers using the web as a main news source surged from 24% to 40% in a year, overtaking the 35% who rely on newspapers. Television slipped from 74% to 70%.
  • Younger people are migrating towards the web quickly. Among the under-29s, the web leaped from 34% to 59% as the leading source of news, tying with television, with newspapers lagging at 28%
Co-incidentally at the time of drafting this post Brian Solis covered the above research over at his must read blog PR 2.0 where you can also download the original research document
One advantage of online news and social media
One reason why online news is more appealing than print based is that many of the comments after the original article can be extremely insightful, sometimes more interesting and may transport you on a journey to other articles or content on the topic, increasing the depth and breadth of your knowledge of a subject.  This is the power of social media whereby collaboration with the original source online is encouraged rather than controlled, which is what print based news signifies to me. 

Simply put: newspapers = monologue, online news = dialogue.

So what is the future for newspapers?
A couple of days before The Guardian’s feature I also received an article from ReadWriteWeb on Community News Frameworks. This article’s main focus was on how the newspaper industry can re-invent a new model to engage further with their audience and featured News Mixer an application that adapts Facebook Connect with its software, mixing both local news reporting and citizen journalism at the same time integrating user comments, rankings and ratings which appeal to social media audiences.  Apparently the New York Times technologies editor Aron Pilhofer has commented that there were bits and pieces of News Mixer he would like to steal right now!

Can you think of any other ways in which newspapers can look toward reinventing new models to remain competitive online in attempt to make up the deficit in declining newsprint?

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