Is Traditional Newspaper Going to Die Eventually?
We may not read traditional newspaper today, but we may all read news via our smartphones or other new channels. On Metro, for example, we always see a person holding his iPhone, reading the latest news in websites or news applications, or simply just staring at the mobile TV monitors in the cart and watching the news programs. It is obvious that the new media industry is winning more demand now.
We can also see the trend from the number of subscribers of traditional newspaper and the number of users of news applications. Statistics in World Press Trends Report 2012 show that, by the end of 2011, the number of traditional newspaper readers in 23 developed countries decreased by 1.6%. Similarly, a research conducted by Pew Research Center in the US in 2011 also indicated that, the percentage of readers getting news from Internet had for the first time surpass that of readers reading newspaper, which was 41% to 40%. Besides, the user number of Huffington Post reached 100 million at the beginning of 2014. That is a really impressive number. All these statistics seem to further confirm that the demand of traditional newspaper is decreasing while the demand for Internet news is increasing. The supply of traditional newspaper is seemingly far exceeding the demand.
The fast development of Internet news websites and applications has various reasons. First of all, in China, for example, it is not necessary now to establish an online news application with news license, which makes everyone able to be a news publisher on the Internet. Also, the lower running cost of news websites and applications results in more media companies choosing to run a website rather than newspaper. Moreover, readers today are less willing to pay for newspaper. They prefer to read free news online. All these factors lead to the increasing popularity of online news.
So, the major problem traditional newspaper is facing now seems to be the lack of demand. What measures have newspaper publishers taken to save themselves?
Some newspaper publishers have turned to online news. They are now rapidly developing their online branches. We can see that New York Times, the Guardians, and Wall Street Journals, etc. have all established news websites and are running them successfully. Traditional publishers are now viewing news websites and applications as important as newspaper, or even more important.
Another way for further development is to distribute free newspaper, which can be an effective way of digesting excessive newspaper supply. Siu-Yan Cha, a famous media practitioner in Hong Kong, wrote in her column that, the free tabloids in the metro of Hong Kong is a new way out for traditional newspaper. She explained why free tabloids can success today, which includes free information, smaller size, less publishing cost, more advertising income, good timeliness, and so on. She concluded that free metro tabloids led to the decrease in the sale of traditional newspaper. According to a survey, the sale of a main newspaper has decreased by 50%. “The newspaper stands are slowly fading now,” she wrote in her article.
However, all the measures are now just slowing the pace. It seems that, mobile news inevitably will be the mainstream in the future. So will the traditional newspaper disappear eventually? My answer is no.
The market of newspaper will never disappear, especially in China. Propaganda is the most powerful weapon of Communist Party of China, and newspaper is the best channel for propaganda. In China, there are several official newspaper, including People’s Daily, Global Times, Guangming Daily, etc. Government offices are normally required to subscribe these newspaper. The Chinese government depend on newspaper to propagate, so that the dominance is stable. As long as the communist governance remains unchanged, the newspaper will continue to exist. Furthermore, the subscription of these newspaper brings substantial income to the government. So the market does not fade away easily.
For this reason, I do not think that the newspaper will die out in the future, because there will always be demands. However, with online news being more convenient and breeding more readers, I believe that newspaper publishers need to come up with more efficient ways to prevent newspaper from being half dead.