Newspaper Wars: Killing off Print

by lana lynne on February 11, 2012
The previous post on media consolidation transitions nicely into the topic of the "struggling" newspaper industry, which comes into the spotlight with news that the Philadelphia Media Network -- publisher of the the Philadelphia Inquirer and its sister publications, The Daily News and, may be on its way to changing hands again.

I'm not going to pretend to have all the numbers crunched on newspaper revenue -- whether digital or print is more sustainable -- but I'll say up front that I don't believe that print is dead, contrary to what the newspaper industry would have you believe. Just a few numbers to throw out there: two-thirds of people in the U.S. do not use smartphones, one third of people in the U.S. don't use internet, and an average of one Redbox movie rental kiosk opens every hour. Are communities really ready to say goodbye to their local print newspapers and embrace a short-sighted digital-only version? 

Image from wikipedia
As the case may be, some of the major investors and CEOs in the industry have already written their eulogies for print. Journal Register, the media company who owns over 100 papers in the U.S., and who is owned by Alden Global, the investor who is selling their share of the Philadelphia Media Network, is operating under the "digital first, print last" mantra. Arguing that the print model is broken and what's broken can't be fixed, the company has courted investors with a media model that leaves behind the brick and mortar for the promise of the "crowd" and the cloud. The crowd has access to more news than any newspaper could ever print, says the company, and so they have begun to look at the crowd more as colleagues rather than just consumers. The cloud, of course, gives them the technological ability to publish without the expense of printing presses.

Couched in such affable terms, it's easy to see the appeal of such a model, in theory. But that's just it. It's a theory that doesn't quite mesh with reality. While welcoming the crowd into their virtual newsroom (remember, there are no offices, desks, chairs or employees anymore) they are at the same time outsourcing jobs and whittling away at what once was and could still be a cornerstone of communities. If these are the consequences of going digital, isn't it worth exploring some other options?

If the people leading the industry had it their way, that would be a naive and nostalgic perspective on a vestige from a bygone era. But, like Douglas Page points out in a great article that digs deeper into the issue and offers great insights into other ways of looking at the future of newspapers, "Planes and automobiles are also here to stay. But they haven't killed off bicycles, trains and ships."
Print Friendly and PDF


  1. Anonymous11:47 AM

    It does seem like there remains a place in our world for print media, but I wonder if it must be re-imagined? The future of print does not lay with the paradigms of the past. Print must innovate and change as well. What does print offer that the virtual does not?

  2. Anonymous4:11 PM

    For most people I think it is simply that print is tangible. For people who do not stare at a computer screen all day, printed text is still a reminder that we haven't been turned into complete robots.

  3. That last line is brilliant. I agree with it (and the first poster) that the newspaper brand must be reimagined in order to continue to exist. If it lives in the past it will soon stay there.

    1. Anonymous8:36 PM

      That last line is pretty funny - but I wonder if you can really compare the technologies? It makes me think about the questions we should ask. For instance, "What does print do for people that the internet can not?"


Having trouble leaving a comment? Some browsers require acceptance of 3rd party cookies. If you leave an anonymous comment, it may need to be approved.