The State of the Media: Will Print Newspapers Be Obsolete In My Lifetime?
September 19, 2007
Lately I’ve been thinking about how the media is changing, and specificially how we get our news. For decades (if not centuries), newspapers were the go-to form of information delivery, and really, nothing else was practical. Then radio and television appeared on the scene, but nothing really supplanted the almighty daily paper.
As we all know, the web has irrevocably changed how our news gets delivered. Many traditional publications are experiencing a downturn, and more are either going online or going under. I’m not sure what to attribute that to besides the simple fact that the web is cheaper, easier, faster, and much, much more varied than what is available in print. No paper can compete with the internet in terms of breaking news, and with the increasing ubiquity of smart phones (web-enabled phones like the iphone), one of superior qualities of print newspapers -their portability – is losing ground.
Sometimes I wonder if print newspapers will become obsolete within my lifetime. After all, I’m 24 and I’ve never purchased a newspaper (I’ll read the free paper if I’m stuck on public transportation without a book, but that’s about it). Everything I’d want from a paper, from op-eds to crossword puzzles to classified ads, can be found online, and the web versions are bigger and better than the print ones – and I can tailor them to my interests.
Call it niche content, call it the long tail, call it hyper-local journalism, but the knockout punch of the web is the ability to tailor content to your interests. If you use RSS, you don’t even have to visit the sources – your info of choice comes to you. Print media can’t really compete with that kind of neatly packaged efficient delivery system, can it? (and besides, web pubs don’t kill trees, for all of the green-living types out there).
Despite my misgivings, I still believe that is a future for print pubs that can adapt – the problem lies in finding a way to create a unique experience for the reader that cannot be replicated online (for instance, glossy fashion rags still thrive because editorials just don’t look as pretty on a computer screen). It’s survival of the fittest (or the most creative) time – but it is also a very exciting time to be involved in the media field.