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The Demise of Print Media

April 9, 2013

Print Media has been an enduring trade since Guttenberg’s invention of the printing press.  The conception brought forth a generation of mass communications, and a culture of dependence on print mediums.  However, this once esteemed form of communication is now presented with the certainty of deterioration in the face of the digital revolution.

The digital revolution has enabled rapid advances in technologies that have continuously gained momentum since the initial introduction in the 1980’s.   In many instances technology has fundamentally taken over due to amplified efficiency and superior capabilities.  The Federal Communications Minister for Australia, Minister Stephen Conroy indicated that we are in an age where the medium is on the verge of obsolescence.  “What you’re seeing here is possibly the beginning of the end for the print newspaper” (ABC News).  The declining circulation of hard-copy newspapers and the depletion of advertising revenues, also increase the vulnerability of the industry.

Essentially the financial and economic indicators within an industry can deliver the greatest insight into the success and forecasted future.  Indications for the Print Media industry are undeniably bleak.  Although the industry has not come to a complete halt, there are impending factors which indicate a significant decline in the relevance of the industry.  In contrast, online media has experienced significant growth levels (Wolfgang).

In order to expedite this fact, one of the largest economies in the world can be used as an illustration.  The newspaper industry in the United States is experiencing a significant downtrend, which has been further obstructed by severe economic conditions.  Between 2007 and 2009 American newspapers suffered approximately a 30% decline in revenues.  In comparison Britain suffered a decline of 21% (istockanalyst).   Similarly, circulation has also suffered a loss of 10.6% according to the world association of Newspapers 2010, (World Press Trends Annual Report).

The financial decisions of key players in Print Media can also be seen as indications that Print media is no longer a viable option.  On the 28th of June this year, Rupert Murdoch conducted a meeting to discuss significant changes in the industry.  This meeting identified the division of news into two distinct entities, and involved a quarantine of print media assets from the television and movie business.  Not surprisingly, the Television and movie business accounted for 75% of revenue gained for News Limited and 90% of earnings (New York Times).

The effects of this reality can also be seen locally in Fairfax Media as Gina Rinehart attempted to divest a third of her stake on the 24th of August 2012.  During this period the share price for Fairfax dropped as low as 12.75% before closing at 11% which valued the company as just over $1 Billion, buyers were not inclined to purchase the stock and only offered a mere 4.5% for the shares.  This day marked a paper loss of $2.7 Billion for Fairfax Media. (The Sydney Morning Herald).

Paradoxically, in 2009 Rupert Murdoch pronounced that “information does not want to be free; it actually wants to be paid for”.  Mr. Murdoch went further to state that “Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalizing its ability to produce good reporting”.  In this statement Mr. Murdoch also indicated that he intended to charge for all of his papers, (New York Times).  What was not acknowledged in this statement was that news transforms into a commodity once it enters the World Wide Web.   The recurring issue for newspapers is the fact that consumers are no longer willing to purchase content whilst there is a plethora of free information which can be accessed by an effortless click.

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The digital revolution has often been referred to as the third industrial revolution, which signifies the entrance into a new age of production.  The first revolution was experienced in the late 18th Century with the mechanization of the textile industry; the second revolution came in the 20th century as Henry Ford mastered the moving assembly line, marshaling an age of mass production.  In the current revolution it can be seen that the manufacturing industry is experiencing a digital shift, which will significantly impact on the way in which businesses operate and the way in which society functions as a whole (The Economist).

This revolution has effectively caused an explosion of user-generated content; as users have become more comfortable with gaining and sharing information on the internet.  The paradigm shift has caused users to skeptically evaluate the opinions of journalists and value the recommendations of peers more so.  As such the advertisement industry has been forced to reallocate efforts towards interactive media avenues (Wolfgang).

The future of print media does not exist in a physical form, but rather an online sphere which can be accessed through various devices.  New Media has led to the ubiquity of smart and portable devices, which has conceptually replaced print media in the form of; Mobile and Smart Phones, Smart books, tablets and various devices that facilitate interactive and digital media (Sheldrake).  The technologically savvy and the early adapters have embraced this change as a positive move forward.

It has been indicated that the tablet computer will allow for a digital salvation, as the device provides convenience, and users are more likely to offer a monetary transaction for a product when interactive features are offered so as to enhance to experience of gaining information (New York Times).  Analysts predict that the Ipad will revolutionize the publishing industry in the same way that the Ipod and the Iphone have done with the music and smart phone industries (Business and Marketing Challenges for the 21st Century).

For centuries journalists have provided society with information, yet this role can be replaced with any individual with an curious mind and an internet connection, yet the overhead costs are eliminated (Satish).  The choice consumers have is between a static piece of paper that is cumbersome to navigate and outdated the moment of publication or a dynamic devise that instantly transmits information, there is no questions as to what will dominate the market (Anthropological Quarterly).

On the 26th of April 2012, Rupert Murdoch predicted that there will be no newspapers in ten years time, stating that internet competition and government overregulation will lead to its demise.  He indicated “We are dealing in a very complex world with disruptive technologies, and were suffering at the hand of those, so when it comes to regulation, I just beg for some care.”  In order to survive in the industry, the middle men will need to be cut out, that is the way of the future.  Demand, is a constantly the driving component for the advancement of online media (Web Pro News).

Despite the figures, Print Media will not disappear prematurely, as consumers have adopted a habitual nature with the printed product and sociological patterns; those of older generation still demand a need for the medium.  In the 1950’s concern surrounded the invention of the television set, as it was thought that the cinema industry would be dissolved as a result, however the two industries were able co-exist as the content and the relationship that consumers were exposed to was separate (The New Yorker).

Increasing environmental conscientiousness burdens consumers, with the physicality of a paper that is often unrealistically large and implicates the survival of trees (Business week).  This burden can be seen in the literal actions of consumers; in 2012, only 10% of Americans polled to have newspaper subscriptions, whereas digital subscriptions; even in infancy were far ahead at 18% (International Weekly Journal of Science).

Digital Media has many advances over print media, including ubiquity, speed, permanence, search ability, a capacity to update and interact and the ability to target specific audiences.  Print Media is slowly decomposing, whilst digital media is transcending the term of media, whilst also reducing production and distribution costs.  New York Times has seen its stock decline by fifty-four percent since the end of 2004, with much of the loss experienced over the past year.  In February 2010, an analyst at Deytsche Bank recommended that clients sell of their times stock.  In order to survive, newspapers have adapted with online news that is cohesive to social changes (Column Five Media).

The average age of the American newspaper reader is at 55 and is steadily rising.  (Sheldrake).  This is because many traditional consumers find pleasure in ‘running their fingers along ebony ink’ (Turney), or being able to underline specific points and grasp a physical product with the value of information.  There is pleasure that can be experienced in the physical components of print, and an enjoyment in readers activating their imaginative faculties to conjure their own images and ideas.  Essentially, interactive media mimics the concept of hard copy media but there are those components that cannot be delivered online, which are the organic inclinations of humanity.

As identified the future of the Print Media industry is essentially limited, with the forecast of closure in close sight.  The Digital Revolution has swallowed the feasibility of production and distribution, offering a logical solution of online dispersion and mediums that provide greater value to the consumers.  Print Media was a much loved concept, but now we have entered a new age where content can be offered by any inquisitive individual, dispersed through an online portal.  This portal will essentially enter consumers into the future of online media.

 

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