How the Web is effecting newspapers.
A new era is upon us. We are now living in a world of consumer immediacy, where our wants can we instantly met. Technolgy and the internet are making our society evolve. We look for our information, news, sports, entertainment in a different way than we did even ten years ago.
But now in 2009 we face another challenge, the world economy is in recession, some would say depression, and this drought is facing all sectors of the economy including the newspaper industry. Physical sales are falling, advertizing sales are down, jobs are at risk.
This recession also challenges the print industry as we know it. If people look for their information online who is buying newspapers ? Why are we still printing newspapers?
During the course of this paper I will look at a couple of examples of well known newspaper titles in trouble. The San Francisco Chronicle lost almost $1 million per week in 2008 (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/business/media/25paper.html ) while the Seattle Post Intelligencer printed its last print edition on March 17th of this year. (http://www.seattlepi.com/business/403793_piclosure17.html) How are these titles changing or evolving and will the San Francisco Chronicle be able to maintain a print edition.
I will also look at Irish publications, do they have a print edition life or are they more popular online. Is Ireland’s economy big enough to maintain so many home grown publications?
I will look at what the future holds for print publications and what or how technology will change how to look at ‘news’. The Pros and Cons of what works for newspapers is still changing and how the industry must change and adapt to survive.
The final point I want to look at is how investigative journalism is changingand how this will effect publication sales. When Journalists’ sources are divulged through their ISP addresses how many ‘sources’ will still be will to divulge information if they can be traced?
Founded in 1865 (http://www.sfgate.com/c/history/ ) The San Francisco Chronicle was bought by the Hearst Corporation in 2000.
(http://www.hearst.com/newspaper.php?name=San+Francisco+Chronicle) It is the largest Newspaper in Northern California and 12th largest in North America. In 2008 the Hearst Corporation said the publication has been haemorrhaging money at the rate of almost 1million per week. As of September 2008 its 6 month circulation fell by 7per cent (http://www.accessabc.com)
This westcoast newspaper has seen more history come and and go, the 1906 fire, the Glorious sixties on Haight-Ashbury, the seventies and the gay rights movement and its leader Harvey Milk. The Chronicle though has lost some of its printed matter appeal and more people are looking for their information from the official website www.sfgate.com
The amount of money being lost by the Chronicle is so vast that if the printed edition of the paper is to close down , the owners do not know if there will be enough money even to keep the website running.
A lot of locals are now disillusioned with The San Francisco Chronicle and feel it has abandoned its roots (Timdaws comment: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/feb/25/san-francisco-chronicle-owner-warns-of-sale ) A Bay area resident also told me that when the original family sold the newspaper in 2000 that it lost its community heart and its free spirited natured which was in line with the history of the city (personal email from Sean Lightholder). Mr Lightholder also agreed that
local information and stories online were obtained from the San Francisco Bay Guardian www.sfbg.com It seems that the locals prefer the small family / community ‘feel’ newspapers and publication to the big corporationalized institutions.
The Hearst Corporation also owns The Seattle based Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The Seattle PI printed its last paper version on March 17 2009. The 146 year old paper now has become (http://www.seattlepi.com.) The CEO, Frank Bennack Jr., has said “Our goal now is to turn seattlepi.com into the leading news and information portal in the region. … and a community platform. (http://www.seattlepi.com/business/403793_piclosure17.html)
While jobs were lost with the print closure of the Seattle P.I., the journalists who once worked there took the initiative and have now started their own online news portal http://seattlepostglobe.org/ Online since April 2009 the Post Globe is quite blog-like in style but these are journalists who have an industry track record, making their writing credible.
In February this year also Philadelphia Newspapers LLC, owner of the Philadelphia Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer also filed for Bankruptcy. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Troubled-San-Francisco-paper-apf-14459615.html
Closer to home it’s no secret the The Irish Times is also in financial trouble, cutting 23 of its 56 staff. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2001/dec/19/pressandpublishing.newmedia
The circulation of the paper has remained steady though. The company was the first publication in Ireland to move online. Ms Mary Mangan, Chief Operations Manager of the Irish Times said ‘The Internet is coming of age and its long-term future will not be based on free services,” “There are opportunities for a site producing quality content to charge for that content.
According to the blog of journalist Adam Maguire, The Irish Times
‘ has one of the best online incarnations in Ireland which not only includes each days newspaper but also has searchable archives which are quite user friendly, breaking news sections and a collection of their special features … All of this is sadly hindered by the fact that the website is subscription based however once the issue of money is overcome the site is extremely well built.’
Yet again, the issue of money arises. This also became an issue for other Irish publications.
New digital media are not external agents that come to disrupt an unsuspecting culture. They emerge from within cultural contexts, and they refashion other media, which are embedded in the same or similar contexts (Bolter & Remediation Theory Introduction) An example of this is Irish Music magazine Hot Press. With a circulation circa 20000, (www.hotpress.com) is Irelands only true commercial rock music Magazine (no other commercial national rock music magazine exists). It is published on a fortnightly basis but to overcome the need its readers have for immediate answers and stories, the magazine now has a website with both free and subscription access. It is important that while Hot Presss competitors are mostly website based music information sites, (www.dropd.ie, www.state.ie, www.connected.ie) it has overcome this problem by updating its website instantly when news stories break and introducing blogging journalists to the site. (http://nessymon.wordpress.com/creative-writing/remediation/ )
Www.connected.ie and www.state.ie both started life as printed publications. State.ie was formed by Photographer Roger Woolman and two journalists from Hot Press who wanted to give a different angle to the music scene. After a couple of printed issues appearing on the shelves, sales were not good and State.ie became a free magazine with income derived from advertising sales. However advertising alone could not sustain the financial burden and state.ie became an online only publication at the end of 2008.
Connected.ie was also another free magazine with circulation in Ireland’s major cities and towns. It launched in November 2005 and went to online only publication in January of this year.
The Journal of Music of Ireland www.thejmi.com also relaunched itself earlier this year and changed its publication time so it ran January/February etc rather than December/January, just to be more consumer friendly.
Its interesting to note that State.ie won best Irish Music site at the Irish Web Awards in 2008 and that too, their website is wordpress powered, another blogging tool.
More and more news publications are also using social networking sites, not just their own websites, to attract visitors. Twitter.com, the micro blogging site is now home to probably every major publication including Newsweek (http://twitter.com/Newsweek ), Time ( http://twitter.com/TIME ), The New York Times (http://twitter.com/nytimes ) and the Guardian ( http://twitter.com/guardiantech ) giving updates and headlines with links to their own websites. On April 8th 2009 the Guardian sent a ‘tweet’ (a twitter message) directing visitors to http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/apr/08/google-eric-schmidt-newspapers where CEO of Google Eric Schmidt said that Newspapers survival depended on innovations and newspapers coming up with new ideas. “It’s obvious to me that the majority of the circulation of a newspaper should be online, rather than printed. There should be five times, 10 times more circulation because there’s no distribution cost,” Schmidt said.
He raises an interesting point, but is there enough online advertising to sustain every printed newspaper? In an uncertain economic climate advertising sales people need to drop their prices to attract enough customers. The Internet is very immediate, most web pages online have a flash player or moving advertisement of some description. Too many of these though and your website becomes cluttered and is overwhelming to the visitor, which ultimately means unusable.
One of the reasons that the Guardians website is so well known is that the content is free and it often has different articles to the printed version. The Guardian recently won best website at the Webby’s http://www.webbyawards.com/webbys/current.php?season=13#webby_entry_newspaper The other option is to charge for your content. This though effects the impact your journalists can haev on a breaking story as only a certain ‘elite’ have access to the information. It will effect your internet search rankings and also because you are a self contained community, will effect advertisers so you are solely relying on subscriptions.
In April of this year, Journalism Online was launched. http://www.journalismonline.com/ This new venture claims to be an Itunes for the print industry that it can fulfill and ‘urgent need’ for troubled publications (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/apr/15/journalism-online-us-newspapers-charge-readers) and with over 100 newspapers closing in the US in the past year this may be an inject that smaller publications need.
By allowing users to see a section of the article (first paragraph) or a certain amount of free articles per month, the user can the opt to buy the remaining text, working in the same format as Itunes does with the 30 sec sample of music.
Leo Hindery, an investor in the project said The website will provide a way for publishers of quality journalism to charge whatever they believe is a reasonable amount for their content in ways that are seamlessly convenient for readers,”
Mobile Devices are becoming more important for newspapers, using Twitter or Facebook headlines are sent as the happen to your Blackberry or iPhone. If you are interested in the link they sent you, click adn you are at the full story on the offical website.
It is extremely hard to read a full website on a mobile device though. In May 2009, Amazon Lauched the Kindle DX an e reader designed so the reader can read electronic books and have print journals and newspapers downloaded to their Kindle overnight. (http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-DX-Amazons-Wireless-Generation/dp/B0015TCML0 )
While the ideas behind the device are good, the actual device still has flaws and a lot of tweaks need to be made before every home has a kindle. The Kindle itself still has a black and white screen, if newspapers can print in colour why can’t a screen be in colour? It is also very expensive at $489 not everyone will have the money to buy one. The screen also displays the newspaper pages very much in pdf form so you lose a ‘newspaper feel’ to it. Not all books are available for the kindle yet.
Industry reviewers say they will wait for its competitor to come along http://blogs.zdnet.com/gadgetreviews/?p=4013&page=3 but while that is happening Major newspapers are doing deals with Amazon about getting their newspaper licensed for Kindle use.
Here is where a lot of experts complain. http://twit.tv/181 If a newspaper can be downloaded to your Kindle in 60 seconds why can the newspaper edition be updated throughout the day? If disaster breaks out why can’t you read about it on your Kindle? Isn’t that why people started turning away from newspapers to start, they wanted immediacy which still isn’t currently available with the Kindle DX.
While the cost of the actual Kindle DX device is expensive, if the New York Times in the U.S. bought all its long term subscribers (over two years) a Kindle DX an dsent them an automatic download everyday it would still cost than half the money it would to chop down trees and print the newspaper.
According to the New York Times Quarterly report quoted in The Week in Technology they spend $63 million on raw materials, ink, paper, $148 million on wages and benefits per Quarter. Delivery costs per year work out at 644 million per year. This is just one example.
PC magazine www.pcmag.com are now encouraging their readers to look at their website rather than buy the magazine version. They are also offering a downloadable Zinio (http://www.zinio.com/ ) digital format compatible versions of their magazines. Slowly the industry is encouraging its potential customers to go online.
If newspapers do stop their printed editions what happens to the journalists, while many are becoming professional bloggers or freelancers, how will they maintain the same credibility as a printed journalist. Blogging still is a form of publication. If these people work from home their sources and ISP addresses can be easily intercepted. Their sources can be easily revealed. Journalists are only the disseminators of messages. They are not the real political and social crusaders http://www.newssafety.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11208:press-demands-security-for-journalists-&catid=121:nepal-media-safety&Itemid=100398 This will no doubt lead to a change in the journalists work and so to creditable online media.
The newspaper industry is changing and trees and the cost of printing are extremely high. However people still like having a choice of picking up a newspaper just because the headline says ‘Freddie Starr ate my Hamster’ . It seems though change, while it is a necessity for the environment and for the actual survival of the industry, needs to happen, no one has yet come up with a perfect solution.
It is impossible to say whether there will be a solution, certain people will still want to buy tabloids, certain people will only want to read on the next generation of Kindle which hopefully will allow updated editions of newspapers to be downloaded. Currently the Kindle work demands you use a button to turn the page. I believe for the Kindle or its competitor to really become the saviour of the Journalism industry is if each edition becomes possible to use with hypertext links, linking articles and pages within the actual pdf or downloaded digital edition. Instead of looking for something to replace the newspaper we need to reinvent it.
Bolter, J & Grusin, 1999 Remediation, Understanding New Media 2000 reprint, USA, The MIT Press
© Vanessa Monaghan/NessyProductions 2009 May 2009