Print journalism stumbles on shift to online


Photo by Yousuf El-Jayyousi

Kat Sarafianos

It seems the only people who read print newspapers are parents older than 45, the journalists who write in them and hipsters who like the idea that people can tell what they’re reading.
Everyone else may pick them up once in awhile or lie about reading them, but given the rapid decline in print advertising with much of that business migrating to online publications print journalism has been brought to its knees.

But it’s important to remember that the decline of print journalism does not mean the decline of journalism itself.

Newspapers are not the sole fountain of information. In fact, the idea of publishing news 48 hours or more after it has happened is pathetic in the face of a 24 hour news cycle.
The New York Times has enjoyed the privileged position of being grand supreme of the journalism racket for the last several decades only to have their crown challenged by websites such as the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed. While to some it may seem horrifying that an established paper like the NYT is facing serious competition from a website that prides itself on personality quizzes and click bait videos, let’s remember that competition is the central feature of capitalism.

And journalism is very much a money making industry.

In fact, if there’s anyone to blame for the rocky transition newspapers had when shifting to online, it’s newspapers themselves.
While most millennials could have told print publications it was only a matter of time before they had to shift gears and adapt to the internet age, it still didn’t stop most from slamming on the breaks and only starting websites in the late 2000s. Furthermore, they had the great idea of putting content that was paid for when in print, for free when online.
When they realized their mistakes, newspapers started charging for online subscriptions, but by then people expected to receive this information for free.
And alas, the major problem of journalism in the internet age. People don’t want to pay for information—not when they can follow NYT on Twitter and get the highlight reels for free. In a cyberspace where pirated movies and illegally downloadable music is literally a click away, the idea of paying for anything as aerial and nonphysical as information is laughable.
While that may be discouraging to those trying to imagine the future of reliable, quality news that informs its readers and sparks intellectual conversion past “What Gossip Girl Character is your Spirit Animal,” fear not.
If quality publications such as the NYT and the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) can learn something from their internet counterparts like Buzzfeed, it’s how to take advantage of their online presence. What newspapers need to focus on is cultivating the large and loyal online audiences websites like Politico and the Huffington Post have been able to attract.
When your featured readership is stagnant and set to die off in 30 to 40 years, it’s time to think of other ways to spread your message. With that, publications need to realize the internet is not the enemy.
It’s possible to develop revenue through ads while maintaining and even increasing readership. But that means journalism publications have to start cultivating an online presence that draws people away from the clickbait infested channels of Buzzfeed and Reddit.
Just like every other capitalist industry, it will take consumers time to weed out the unreliable sources and find and pay attention to the websites they value. Newspapers need to learn that if they want to be one of those websites, they have to cultivate the strong presence that made them popular in the first place.