I work in a dying industry—or so many would have you believe.
The death of newspapers has been predicted with the advent of every new technology over the last 100 years, from radio, television,computers and the Internet.
But, if you are reading this in a newspaper that you are holding—as opposed to on a computer screen—you’ll know the newspaper, as a vehicle for information dissemination, is not dead yet.
There’s no doubt about it, the number of formats available to get news has increased. The web has given people the instant access promised by the arrival of 24-hour television news in early 1980s. Via the web, you can out find pretty much everything you want to know, or don’t want to know, with a few clicks of a computer mouse, a touchpad or, as many are doing these days, the swipe of your thumb on a smartphone screen.
But if newspapers are in fact dying and not just restructuring, they are taking a long time to kick the bucket.
Business models have changed over the years but that’s not new. Cuts have been made as a reaction to market conditions and, yes, some newspapers have closed. With more outlets chasing shrinking advertising budgets, the dollars are getting harder to grab.
But that’s the business side of newspapers. In any economy, businesses come and go. The essence of a newspaper, however, is news. After all, we don’t call them “adpapers.” (In fairness to my advertising brethren, money generated by ad sales does help pay the bills.)
But, to borrow a phrase from Mark Twain, the rumours of the newspaper’s death has been “greatly exaggerated.” And even those who would hasten the newspaper’s demise are hedging their bets.
Take the Central Okanagan Regional District as an example. Based on environmental grounds, it wants you to stop reading this and all other newspapers. They say they clutter the landfill if not recycled properly. So how does the CORD spread its message? It advertises in newspapers because, it admits, that’s the best way to get that message out.
Meanwhile, many websites use information generated by newspaper reporters because they don’t have the resources or inclination to do the legwork themselves. Meanwhile, just about every news organization has its own website to publish its own information.
So, despite all this talk of the death of newspapers, there appears to still be some life left in them and room for them in this world that relies as much on information as it does all those other basic necessities of life.
The profit margins may not as big as they once were, but people are still reading.
Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.