Online News Replacing Printed News, But at What Cost?

A very interesting article appeared on MSNBC today and I thought I’d share it.  A few days ago I posted a question about technology; was it helping or hindering social progress?  I ask this question again, understanding that I define social progress as, essentially, continued civility and progressive civil evolution.  We might understand social progress as, say, the enhancing of skills and the development of new ways to bring society together.  In a way the internet seems to be doing that, but is it a means that is actually bringing us together or simply giving us more access to each other?  I think of the internet as a large house with open arches rather than doorways, where someone on one end of the house can easily reach the other, or even peer through a door to see what is going on in another room.  But people sill go about their business as individuals in their respective rooms.  Of course, I write this on a blog, which is accessed using technology.  So I recognize that it is a double-edged sword.

This article I give snippets of below offers a glimpse at the decline of the printed paper and the rise of online news access.   Here are some of the stats and factors:

After two dreadful years, most sectors of the industry saw revenue begin to recover. With some notable exceptions, cutbacks in newsrooms eased. And while still more talk than action, some experiments with new revenue models began to show signs of blossoming.

Among the major sectors, only newspapers suffered continued revenue declines last year—an unmistakable sign that the structural economic problems facing newspapers are more severe than those of other media. When the final tallies are in, we estimate 1,000 to 1,500 more newsroom jobs will have been lost—meaning newspaper newsrooms are 30% smaller than in 2000.

Meanwhile, the pace of change continues to accelerate. Mobile has already become an important factor in news. A new survey released with this year’s report, produced with Pew Internet and American Life Project in association with the Knight Foundation, finds that nearly half of all Americans (47%) now get some form of local news on a mobile device. What they turn to most there is news that serves immediate needs – weather, information about restaurants and other local businesses, and traffic. And the move to mobile is only likely to grow. By January 2011, 7% of Americans reported owning some kind of electronic tablet. That was nearly double the number just four months earlier.The migration to the web also continued to gather speed. In 2010 every news platform saw audiences either stall or decline — except for the web. Cable news, one of the growth sectors of the last decade, is now shrinking, too. For the first time in at least a dozen years, the median audience declined at all three cable news channels.For the first time, too, more people said they got news from the web than newspapers. The internet now trails only television among American adults as a destination for news, and the trend line shows the gap closing. Financially the tipping point also has come. When the final tally is in, online ad revenue in 2010 is projected to surpass print newspaper ad revenue for the first time. The problem for news is that by far the largest share of that online ad revenue goes to non-news sources, particularly to aggregators.

Traditional newsrooms, meanwhile, are different places than they were before the recession. They are smaller, their aspirations have narrowed and their journalists are stretched thinner. But their leaders also say they are more adaptive, younger and more engaged in multimedia presentation, aggregation, blogging and user content. In some ways, new media and old, slowly and sometimes grudgingly, are coming to resemble each other.

The result is a news ecology full of experimentation and excitement, but also one that is uneven, has uncertain financial underpinning and some clear holes in coverage. Even in Seattle, one of the most vibrant places for new media, “some vitally important stories are less likely to be covered,” said Diane Douglas who runs a local civic group and considers the decentralization of media voices a healthy change. “It’s very frightening to think of those gaps and all the more insidious because you don’t know what you don’t know.” Some also worry that with lower pay, more demands for speed, less training, and more volunteer work, there is a general devaluing and even what scholar Robert Picard has called a “de-skilling” of the profession.

Overview | State of the Media.

The implications of this are  relatively easy to see; less jobs for journalists, who specialize in writing engaging and nuanced papers–the days of Woodward and Bernstein are coming to an end.  The last bit of this article scares me as well.  More blogs (again, double edged sword) are becoming individualized news sources.  I repost news all the time that I get from a variety of online outlets and people repost what I post elsewhere.  In fact blogs are becoming a large part of online news websites.  The Philadelphia Examiner, for example, is essentially a blog site where people post daily (or more) on the news and current affairs and draw in a great deal of attention.

Anyway, I’d like to hear more from my readers and others about what value this possibly has, overall, and where this might take us.  Thoughts?

One Response

  1. I have to say I am a recovering techno-phobe. For years I have indulged in as little electronic media as possible. I come to the game late and frankly behind. There is so much to learn and in reading this article I do wonder about the older segments of our population staying informed in a world they no longer understand.
    Thanks for provoking thought and discussion.

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