EMBERS OF AN EMPIRE

The once powerful world of print media is burning slowly… but what is set to rise from the ashes?

Bryce Heaton – n9180648 – bryceheaton@hotmail.com – Shorthand: http://app-qut.shorthand.com/export/a078cf82cb574dceb6b7103f58b8c244/index.html

For centuries, newspapers have been the primary source of news distribution, taking current affairs to society. However, in recent decades the widespread popularity of television and in recent years the internet boom has quashed the influence of a now waning newspaper empire. This report will delve into the decline of print media, and explore the issues facing the new technological age of journalism including quality control and the decline in revenue resulting from online media not generating a profit. This issue is of paramount importance in a world of seven billion opinions and stories; where information is everywhere but verification is oftentimes not. How will the decline of print media effect the industry and what will take its place?

Decline of the Newspaper

According to Head of Journalism at City University London George Brock, the newspaper in Britain experienced its halcyon days in the 1950s, with the popular Daily Mirror’s highest sale year ever being 1966.[1] Brock also explains that the internet has not been the sole downfall of the print industry. In fact, Brock states that television caused a greater shrinkage of print media distribution than online journalism, however the internet may prove to be the final nail in the coffin for the humble newspaper.[2]

The United States, the nation with the largest budget for print media,[3] has seen drastic declines in newspaper readership which has forced severe downsizing and in some cases closures to newspapers. In the past seven years, twelve metropolitan daily newspapers in the US have printed their last issue and ceased production. Five of these printed their first issue in the 1800s and were once overwhelmingly popular and synonymous with their respective communities.[4] In 1990, the number of US daily newspapers totalled 1611. In 2009, that number was 1384, a
decline of 14%.[5]

Even print news giants have felt the turning tide of the media industry. In 2013, the Boston Globe and affiliated businesses were sold by the New York Times Co. for US$70 million.[6] Just 20 years earlier, the New York Times Co. purchased it for US$1.1 billion.[7] Factoring in inflation, The Times lost 97% on their original investment as a direct cause of the decline of print media’s popularity.[8] Just days after the sale of the Boston Globe, the Washington Post was forcibly sold to Amazon.com Incorporated Chief Executive, Jeffrey Bezos, due to a poor financial position.

The trend of newspaper sales declining is also prevalent on our own shores. Despite a strong population growth rate, all of Australia’s largest newspapers experienced a decline in readership over the 12 month period from December 2012 to December 2013 with the exception of the West Australian.[9]

 

Figure 2 – Courtesy of Roy Morgan Research

Decline of Quality Control

As newspapers have begun to dwindle and online news has skyrocketed in popularity, the issue of poorer quality journalism has come to light due to the fact that anybody can publish their opinions online. Creating content for the masses is simply no longer the sole realm of the professional. Websites such as WordPress, Facebook and Twitter have allowed anybody with access to the internet the potential to have their voice heard throughout the world. Put simply, geographic and professional boundaries in the news have been abolished.

The Australian public holds the view that online journalism could be of a much higher standard. A report, entitled Journalism at the Speed of Bytes: Australian Newspapers in the 21st Century, published in 2012 in conglomeration with the Australian Research Council, reviewed trends in Australia and overseas in regards to newspaper readership and looked at the transition from print to multimedia journalism. The researchers from leading Australian academic institutions Sydney University, the University of New South Wales and the Walkley Foundation found that 67% of survey respondents believed that the quality of online journalism in Australia was “average” or “poor”. Only 14% described it as excellent.[10]

Johanna Vehkoo of the University of Oxford explained the link between quality and revenue in a 2010 paper: “cuts in the newsroom are likely to cause weakening of the quality of journalism, which alienates the audience, which in turn puts further pressure on the maximising of revenues, which again leads to further staff cuts and so on… This spiral points downward, and it is potentially dangerous for the survival of high quality journalism and with it, functioning democracy”.[11]

However, in the same paper Vehkoo discusses that in the UK, The Times and the Guardian are at the frontier of newspaper companies blazing new trails online, taking their content from print to digital. Thus, whilst much of the online current affairs content is concerned with “views, not news”[12] there are some online sources that carry the credibility of successful news corporations. Since Vehkoo’s paper was released, purely online news platforms such as the Brisbane Times and the Huffington Post have affirmed that quality journalism backed by legitimate institutions can survive online. Therefore whilst it is reasonable to doubt the quality of online media, it is apparent that outposts of trustworthy organisations are prevalent online.

Decline in Revenue

“We’re meant to be blogging. We’re meant, in other words, to be giving the thing we used to be paid for away, in the ether, for free”[13]
Christina Patterson, former writer for The Independent newspaper, now a freelancer.

As stated previously, decline in revenue is another major issue facing the future of print media. In a study undertaken by the OECD, in the two years from 2007, the United States newspaper market size decreased by 30%, whilst the UK’s fell 21%. The OECD found that 25 countries newspaper markets decreased in size over the two year period.[14]

The decline in revenue is alarming for the newspaper industry and reflects the exodus from print to online media. However, what is more alarming is the fact that the revenue produced by online media is not increasing substantially enough to make up for the profits lost by the newspaper companies, resulting in an overall decline in revenue for the media.

 

This data, courtesy of the Newspaper Association of America, shows that the revenue for print media in America has been falling since 2005 and the revenue for online media has been increasing steadily since 2003.[15] However, what the data also shows is that the increase in online media revenue has not nearly been significant enough to counteract the rapid fall in print media sales, and therefore the media industry is leaking money fast. For every online dollar gained, there are fifteen print dollars lost.[16] As mentioned in Vehkhoo’s paper, this has contributed to the vicious cycle that ultimately results in poorer quality journalism. This can largely be attributed to advertisers pulling the plug from news organisations, and also consumers not having to purchase a newspaper every day. Rather, they can simply search for news online or watch news television programmes.

Some Australian news outlets are utilising the News+ service to get readers to pay for their online news services. News+ affiliates the Courier Mail, the Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun, Fox Sports Australia and Adelaide’s Advertiser only allow users to view two free articles per day unless they sign up to the News+ service. For full access, News+ users pay a subscription of $5.00 for the first twelve weeks and $10.00 every week following.[17] The full fee of $10.00 per week equates to purchasing 5 daily newspapers a week, however users have full access to all News+ affiliate sites. It can be argued, therefore, that subscribers are getting more value for money than one would get with a newspaper subscription. As of April 2014, News Limited claims to have 200,000 subscribers to the News+ service, which shows positive signs for online news subscriptions in the future.[18]

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is clear that there has been a substantial decline in print media as the industry turns to the internet to be the flagship method of news distribution now and into the future. This report has discussed some of the issues that have arisen from this shift in focus, such as a perceived lack of quality in online journalism and a shrinkage in the amount of revenue generated in the media. Despite the end of an era forthcoming in the downscaling of the newspaper industry, it is apparent that the online media industry will one day overtake it and become the dominant platform for journalism.

 

 

Bibliography

Baker, Rosie. 2014, April 29. “News Corp introduces cross-title membership and reward” Accessed May 23, 2014.
http://www.adnews.com.au/adnews/news-corp-introduces-cross-title-membership-and-reward-scheme

Brock, George. 2013. “Spike the gloom – journalism has a bright future” Accessed May 20, 2014. http://theconversation.com/spike-the-gloom-journalism-has-a-bright-future-17907

Buttry, Steve. 2013, August 3. “Boston Globe lost 97 percent of its value in 20 years” Accessed May 21, 2014.
http://stevebuttry.wordpress.com/2013/08/03/boston-globe-lost-96-percent-of-its-value-in-20-years/

Courier Mail. 2014, April 15. “Terms & Conditions” Accessed May 23, 2014.
https://myaccount.news.com.au/couriermail/help/subscriptionTerms?pkgDef=CM_SDO_P0413_W04

Healy, Beth. 2013, October 24. “John Henry’s purchase of The Boston Globe completed” Accessed May 21, 2014.
http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2013/10/24/john-henry-purchase-boston-globe-completed-after-worcester-judge-lifts-injunction/mfkl8W0Ficsvg4gI8I4y1I/story.html

Jackson, Sally. 2012, July 31. “Media survey finds quality drop” Accessed May 23, 2014.
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/media/media-survey-finds-quality-drop/story-e6frg996-1226439460709

Newspaper Death Watch. 2014. Accessed May 14, 2014.
http://newspaperdeathwatch.com/rip-rocky-mountain-news/

O’Donnell, Penny; McKnight, David and Este, Jonathan. 2012. Journalism at the Speed of Bytes: Australian Newspapers in the 21st Century. Sydney: University of Sydney, University of New South Wales and The Walkley Foundation. Accessed May 23, 2014.
http://www.thefutureofjournalism.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/2012_journalism_speed_of_bytes.pdf

Patterson, Christina. 2013, September 4. “On the death of journalism – and my Indy career” Accessed May 21, 2014.
http://www.christinapatterson.co.uk/blog/index.php?id=26

Roy Morgan Research. 2014. “Newspaper Readership in Australia, 12 Months to March 2014” Accessed April 10, 2014.
http://roymorgan.com.au/industries/media/readership/newspaper-readership

State of the News Media 2013: An Annual Report on American Journalism. 2013, May 7. Accessed May 23, 2014.
http://stateofthemedia.org/2013/newspapers-stabilizing-but-still-threatened/newspapers-by-the-numbers/

Vehkoo, Johanna. 2010. What is quality journalism and how it can be saved. Oxford: Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford. Accessed May 23, 2014.
https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/fileadmin/documents/Publications/fellows__papers/2009-2010/WHAT_IS_QUALITY_JOURNALISM.pdf

 

[1] http://theconversation.com/spike-the-gloom-journalism-has-a-bright-future-17907 (Accessed 20 May, 2014).

[2] http://theconversation.com/spike-the-gloom-journalism-has-a-bright-future-17907 (Accessed 20 May, 2014).

[3] http://theconversation.com/spike-the-gloom-journalism-has-a-bright-future-17907 (Accessed 20 May, 2014).

[4] http://newspaperdeathwatch.com/rip-rocky-mountain-news/ (Accessed 14 May, 2014).

[5] http://www.thefutureofjournalism.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/2012_journalism_speed_of_bytes.pdf (Accessed 23 May, 2014).

[6] http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2013/10/24/john-henry-purchase-boston-globe-completed-after-worcester-judge-lifts-injunction/mfkl8W0Ficsvg4gI8I4y1I/story.html (Accessed 21 May, 2014).

[7] http://stevebuttry.wordpress.com/2013/08/03/boston-globe-lost-96-percent-of-its-value-in-20-years/ (Accessed 21 May, 2014).

[8] http://stevebuttry.wordpress.com/2013/08/03/boston-globe-lost-96-percent-of-its-value-in-20-years/ (Accessed 21 May, 2014).

[9] http://roymorgan.com.au/industries/media/readership/newspaper-readership (Accessed 10 April, 2014)

[10] http://www.theaustralian.com.au/media/media-survey-finds-quality-drop/story-e6frg996-1226439460709 (Accessed 23 May, 2014)

[11] https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/fileadmin/documents/Publications/fellows__papers/2009-2010/WHAT_IS_QUALITY_JOURNALISM.pdf (Accessed 23 May, 2014)

[12] https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/fileadmin/documents/Publications/fellows__papers/2009-2010/WHAT_IS_QUALITY_JOURNALISM.pdf (Accessed 23 May, 2014)

[13] http://www.christinapatterson.co.uk/blog/index.php?id=26 (Accessed 21 May, 2014).

[14] http://www.thefutureofjournalism.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/2012_journalism_speed_of_bytes.pdf (Accessed 23 May, 2014).

[15] http://stateofthemedia.org/2013/newspapers-stabilizing-but-still-threatened/newspapers-by-the-numbers/ (Accessed 23 May, 2014).

[16] http://stateofthemedia.org/2013/newspapers-stabilizing-but-still-threatened/newspapers-by-the-numbers/ (Accessed 23 May, 2014).

[17] https://myaccount.news.com.au/couriermail/help/subscriptionTerms?pkgDef=CM_SDO_P0413_W04 (Accessed 23 May, 2014).

[18] http://www.adnews.com.au/adnews/news-corp-introduces-cross-title-membership-and-reward-scheme (Accessed 23 May, 2014).

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