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Will Newspapers change for the better or worse? February 23, 2009

Posted by kewroad in 2009 predictions.

Every day seems to bring up bad news about traditional news media. In particular the  recession seems to hastening the demise of big city newspapers in the States. Of course these papers were already ailing (even in terminal decline) because of how the web is  changing people’s media habits in fundamental ways.


One  survey last year revealed the challenge facing newspapers. Some of their most affulent readers are simply walking away and becoming   “net newsers” aka the one in ten Americans who not watch TV on a typical day, rely heavily on web-based news and have a fascination with technology. Lying behind this is a sharp decline in newspaper readership with 34% saying they read a paper today compared to 58% in 1999. But this was less catastrophic than TV news tumbling from 60% to 29%.


Traditional media isn’t dead but its influence is waning. 46% of Americans still watch TV throughout the day. What is fundamentally changing is that most powerful and influential people tend to be those  “net newsers” who are more affluent and better educated – 80% are graduates.

 Will “net newsers” appear in the UK?  We can be complacent about how much healthier our news media is compared to the States but UK  newspaper readership has been declining for years with readership getting older and fewer younger people reading a daily paper.

The recession is likely to accelerate  fundamental changes that are already underway – for example  smaller multi-skilled editorial teams, multi-media websites, reader blog communities, Twitter feeds etc.  Unfortunately it may be be another excuse for further cost cutting that affects editorial quality rather than a reconsideration of how a newspaper can reinvent its appeal for an emergent “netnews” generation or better serve those traditional media consumers.


So will we end up with national and local news media that are weaker or stronger or simply better aligned to serve our continuing appetite for news and information?   Well I honestly don’t know but I do expect the media landscape to look as different at the end of 2009 as the reputation of banks and state of the High Street does now.



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