Newspapers dying, online media triumphs

Hardly a day passes without coming across these phrases – Economic Crunch, (Global) Financial Crisis and Economic Recession. Simply put, the world is going through difficult times than it used to be a decade back. The most hit are the automobile and financial institutions. However, the institution – media – that reports on the issue is itself being hit more than expected. Newspapers worldwide are winding up at a time when bad news must sell.

Job cuts are no longer frightening words.

In the US, newspapers are vanishing from the shelves and newsstands. A Manila based blogger, Alan Robles, said “they are folding up fast – as dead as the trees which gave them their pulp.”

RAP 21 reported that “According to an article in Menassat, financial woes in Mauritania are hitting the newspaper industry hard. Just a few weeks ago, kiosks boasted over 400 publications. Today, newsstands are appearing empty with many publications being forced to print less and move content online.”

In Ghana, a very popular private newspaper has been off the news stands some two months ago. Another big and politically oriented private newspaper has recently fired about or over eight staff “to cut down on cost.” Eavesdroppers say these two newspapers with same ideology (bias towards the previous government but now turned opposition) are planning a merger.

Although, the first newspaper has packed off the shelves, its online version is still running with current news – same as the Mauritania episode. The RAP 21 report continued:

Adding more problems to the media scene in the country is the worry that news is quickly homogenizing in Mauritania.  News is printed less often and editors are all depending on the same online content. “It is enough to buy one [newspaper] to know what is in the others,” said Sidi Mohammad Ould Ab, editor-in-chief of the weekly al-Badil al-Thaleth.”

There is no doubt that online news has totally stepped into the shoes of print in terms of audience and very soon the broadcast media will also bear the brunt.

When the internet became popular some decades back and few newspapers quickly found the sense to go online critics chuckled. Others mocked at that move saying it is not feasible to have virtually everyone going digital years to come. The conservatives stuck to their guns and ruled out the possibility of reading news on tiny gadgets. Today, the online media powered by the internet has made it possible for a local farmer at the remotest part of Ghana to know the market prices of maize on the world market. What else does die-hard doubting “Thomases” want to be certain that newspapers are dead or dying?

Of course, the print is still in existence but its blood is clotted to properly circulate. Time is running out for the print media to be more innovative to pursue convergence. Not until newspaper managers wake up to the reality that we are in the digital news era, their product will continue to plunge into the abyss. They must gear more focus in the online prospects and reduce investment in the print.

The digital media sector coupled with microblogging such as twitter among others continues to weather the financial hurricane. More people both at home and offices are becoming bloggers and signing up on social networks to relay their own news. Citizens’ journalism is also riding high on the online media highway.

The next five to 10 years will push the dominance and authority of newspapers as news sources to the far back. “The future of online media looks very bright and promising. Already with this sort of aggregation whereby most online media organizations allow others to use content free without cost, the sector needs little investment to flourish and wouldn’t be hit much or won’t experience the impact of the global crunch like the newspapers would do,” said Isaac Essel, online journalist with Ghana’s most credible online news portal – myjoyonline.

Will the newspapers fade out completely? NO! I don’t think new media will wipe them out – just force them to make drastic changes that better suit today’s audience.


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February 2009
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