Plummeting subscription numbers, loss of advertising revenue as advertisers turn to digital advertising platforms and, finally, newspapers and magazines shutting down. Reading about all this doom and gloom, one might be led to believe that journalism is on its deathbed. However, the truth is that it is the news print publishing industry that is dying, not the trade and profession of journalism.
Today, enabled by wireless broadband internet access and always-connected mobile devices such as phones and laptops, there has been a shift in people’s news consumption habits from old mediums, such as print and television, to digital mediums, such as web pages and phone applications. Advertisers – whose first priority is to reach out to audiences – then follow their readers to these new platforms, abandoning print advertising for digital advertising.
To capture a piece of the digital advertising pie for themselves and, more importantly, to deal with increasingly declining print advertising revenues, many newspaper companies have tried to offer their news content in the digital sphere. However, the losses from print advertising far outpaces any revenue gains from digital media advertising. This results in a situation where newspaper and magazine publishing companies can no longer support their daily operations.
While some of these companies have tried to adapt to their shrinking operating budgets by cutting labour and capital costs, the truth is that no amount of cost-cutting measures will save them. The reason? Digital technology has disruptively changed the environment in which the newspaper and magazine publishing industry operates in, and permanently so. The news publishing industry has yet to come to terms with the fact that they will never again see the kinds of astronomical revenue and supernormal profits that enabled them to (over)expand into the mega-conglomerations that they are today. The struggle that newspaper and magazine companies are facing today is not really a struggle to survive, but instead a struggle to redefine themselves and find a new business model as well as new ways to operate in this changed environment.
What the newspaper and magazine companies should not forget, however, is that their core business is ultimately still journalism. As Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, said to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: “I like the look and feel of newsprint as much as anyone. But our real business isn’t printing on dead trees. It’s giving our readers great journalism and great judgement.”
As long as newspapers and magazines can still draw readers with quality journalism and find a way to adapt to changes brought about by digital technology and media, advertisers will continue to advertise in print mediums – and bankroll journalism in the process.