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Will the News Feed Kill the Newspaper?


The way people have received and interacted with news sources has never stayed the same for long. TV news first appeared in the 1930s, but it took almost 20 years to rise to prominence and it took that long for people to start wondering if it would give print media anything to worry about. In the end, it didn’t (and still doesn’t), by the time the TV set became an affordable commodity for all households; it had been formatted into a counterpart for print media rather than a competitor.

The internet however, seemed like a far more significant threat. Every single publication has had to adapt to survive, gradually shifting their focus further towards an online presence, but has that been enough to keep them relevant? It varies, whilst papers like The Guardian, The New Statesman, The New York Times, The Independent and The Telegraph have strong online followings, the vast majority of them are experiencing a slow but steady decline in yearly profits. In 2013 The Boston Globe was sold to John Henry (owner of the Red Sox) for $70 million, despite the paper having been bought by the New York Times Company for $1.1 billion only 20 years prior. That means that, on average, the paper has lost about $141,000 in value per day since then.

While that is one of the more extreme examples, there are certainly plenty of others. Newsweek suffered a lingering demise after being picked up in 2010 by IAC and merged with their far more successful, entirely online publication, The Daily Beast. It didn’t go well. The Newsweek Daily Beast Company limped on for all of 3 years before going defunct. Newsweek have become profitable again under the IBT, but only just.

That being said, most newspaper companies have largely been able to find a foothold in this new, scary world, but now there’s a new, more salient danger: social media. Typically, at the moment, social media is a means of access for news information, rather than a direct source, but Google and Facebook have been making some pretty significant inroads into that world of late. On the one hand you’ve got Google’s Digital News Initiative, geared towards throwing more weight behind established and developing digital media sources. The huge company have set up a €150 million innovation fund, which if correctly implemented could create a whole network of smaller, more independent online media sources.

Facebook, meanwhile have started using Instant Articles, a scheme designed to encourage publications to publish material directly onto their site, keeping user engagement firmly housed within the Facebook bubble. Facebook has become an instrumental news source in recent years and the way news is shared between friends and through other sources has drawn the wider print media into sharper public question than ever before. It’s hard to imagine the controversy which ultimately led to the death of the Daily Mail happening without social media to fan the flames.

Before Facebook, Twitter and the advent of online news media, criticisms of print publications were far less readily visible. Now you only need visit the comments section for an article or its Facebook share to find a maelstrom of mud-slinging. The other side effect is that news media publications are remarkably easy to found and promote with little to no funding behind them. Understanding of social media promotion, SEO, conversion and other relatively young specialisations are becoming instrumental in the success of online publications and many of the older ones are running to catch up. You can’t just hire a kid to stand in the street yelling ‘extra’ anymore.

When and if the complete shift from print to online will actually happen is kind of irrelevant. Papers are going to have to swim with the current. Many of them are already working at close quarters with Google and Facebook, as well as setting up antecedent non-profit blogs. Even with that taken into consideration, the world of news is likely to continue developing as a broader patchwork and the larger publications, while surviving, will lose more dominance. Newspapers were created to provide a singular source for all the news information a person needs, but social media has enabled people to build their ideal spread of news from multiple sources at will, and it’s only getting easier as platforms continue to innovate. 

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Will the News Feed Kill the Newspaper? Reviewed by Unknown on Friday, May 22, 2015 Rating: 5

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