Newspapers are so “old-school” – they are going to die soon. You don’t agree? Neither do I. There are still a lot of people out there who like to hold paper in their hands instead of the plastic case of a smartphone or tablet PC, who prefer to scan the headlines on a large newspaper page rather than scroll down a list on a tiny screen and who love the idea of being able to read everywhere without worrying whether they have Internet connection or not. People just like me.
But still – debate has been raging for quite some time now as to whether print can survive in a digital world. Newspaper circulations have been declining for more than two decades now, while online news offerings reach millions of individual users. For me it’s not a question about print or digital. I use them both – and I suspect so do the majority of news consumers.
The need for change
However, print needs to adjust to the changing environment. What has worked so far will not necessarily work any longer now that the digital natives have come of age. Some of them still read print newspapers but the percentage is much lower than in other age groups [German stats see here, US stats here]. They have grown accustomed to sharing interesting news and information online the moment they read it. They are used to clicking on links to related articles or additional content if they get hooked on a topic. All things you can’t do with a print newspaper.
In a great recent piece about the future of digital media, Pete Cashmore of Mashable said something interesting about our generation’s standing between two eras: “Dismantling the old and imagining the new. What can we build together? How do we navigate this new media landscape?”
Bridging the gap between print and digital is what’s needed right now: giving readers the opportunity to use a newspaper in the same way as online news – sharing articles via email or social media (most of online news sharing is done via social media as a CNN study found out last year).
That’s the philosophy behind Kooaba’s Paperboy app. Our image recognition technology lets people explore and share print articles online and has benefits for both consumers and publishers.
- Print as a news source in its own right: the print newspaper doesn’t just link to already freely available online content but give access to additional, print-exclusive content
- Print as multiplier: editors can create compelling stories across all media platforms and help publishers drive targeted traffic to their online portals.
- Print ads with extras: interactive advertisements with digital content aren’t just much more fun for readers but actually add value for them (e.g. link to Google maps for the route to the restaurant, link to product reviews or fun and creative competitions) – and drive growth in ad sales.
[for details on Paperboy see our recent post Newspapers 2.0: 2,000+ print editions become interactive…]
So will the print newspaper survive?
The traditional newspaper readership is still out there and it is now up to publishers to find ways to attract future generations of readers. Whether or not newspapers become a niche news product for “old-school people” or remain a pillar of today’s information society depends on whether or not they can keep up with the digital world. We think print and digital need to meet halfway – combine the best of the online world with what is so charming and enticing about the “old” world, along with something more, namely exclusive content.
If you ask me, the predictions of newspapers’ death have been greatly exaggerated and I’m pretty sure it won’t come at the expense of our current online news. More likely to me is that print will ultimately be replaced by something that mimics the paper format – perhaps some foldable and reusable paper lookalike device.
We all know the prediction made by Ted Turner 30 years ago. He promised that newspapers would be gone in 10 years’ time. I’d say that he was off by at least 60 years!
What is your take on the future of newspapers?