Traditional newspapers, as we know them, are in trouble.
1. One reason is that classified ads have always helped support newspapers but Craigs List and other internet sites have diminished the ability of newspapers to support themselves and pay a highly trained staff.
2. Industry sales, larger companies buying up smaller ones, have changed news from local to more generic for the purpose of saving money. This has alienated the readership.
3. Newspapers have been slow to change their business models to contend with new technology. They have failed to capture a younger audience while their older audience is literally dying.
David Simon, former journalist with the Baltimore Sun and television writer and producer, testified on May 6, 2009 in front of a Senate Committee* about newspapers and the future of journalism. He provides insight into causes of present problems and future solutions to these problems.
News will always be with us but David Simon, believes that “high-end journalism is dying in America unless a new economic model is achieved.” Although the internet is the informational delivery system of our future, there is too much reporting that is not first-generation.
* Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation/ Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet/ Hearing on the Future of Journalism
There's an interesting parallel with TV and the Movies -- from around 1900 until 1950, movies where the main visual means of communication -- and I bet a few reading this may remember watching Movietone news before the movie itself. When television became predominant, movies became more of a niche form of entertainment, but they didn't completely die off.
My hometown still has a local paper, and despite what technological advances occur, that paper will still continue, but in a specified market. There's a small number of advertisers, and a small number of readers, but it provides a service that people want and can't be duplicated with current technology.
Certainly the era of "big newspaper" is gone, for all the aforementioned reasons.
I think that advances in technology have actually led to changes in the way the public reads. When news information was only available in print format, readers were used to processing their news themselves. The average reader could read an article and note important points, ect. Since televised news severely limits the time spent on one story, the audience now gets nothing BUT main ideas. Viewers do not have the experience of watching a story for a length of time and sorting out the details. Internet news has affected the reader in much the same way. For example, CNN.com actually lists the main points of each article BEFORE THE ARTICLE. The reader does not even have to start reading the body of the article to know its main points. In short, a steady appetite of TV and internet news has left much of our population without the skill/patience necessary to process a lengthy written news article.
In one word we might say that technology is responsible for the demise of print media as an important source of news. Both previous posters have made various points that indicate technology and the development of more accessible forms of news have been instrumental in the decline of print media. One might add to these discussions that many individuals have news immediately acccessible at their fingertips through the use of cellphones and pdas that provide immediate internet access.
The previous post nicely addressed how online consumption has impacted the newspaper industry. I would also suggest that this element and its combination with the televised medium has placed newspapers in a challenging position. The emergence of the 24 hour news network, such as CNN or MSNBC or Fox, has added to the woes of the newspapers or the printed medium. If individuals need news immediately, there is less of a likelihood that the news hungry public will wait for the next day's paper when they can tune into a 24 hours news station, read the crawl at the bottom or receive breaking news alerts. There had always been a competition with the televised medium, but this ha taken its toll in conjunction with the online threat. This, combined with the emergence of online forums, have made life extremely difficult and challenging for the newspaper.
The newspaper industry is in trouble because its revenue streams have been undercut by the internet.
Newspapers made money three ways -- through regular ads, through subscriptions, and through classified ads. All of these have been hurt by the internet.
Subscriptions have been hurt because so many people get their news from the internet now. Lots of places, like CNN have websites that give news for free. So why subscribe to a newspaper?
Classifieds have been hurt by things like eBay and Craigslist.
Between those two, people are buying fewer papers so regular advertisers don't want to pay as much for newspaper ads.
So with all of that, newspapers make way less money now than they used to and are in big trouble.
It is quite true that newspaper companies are facing tough competition from news services based on the Internet and other medium of mass communication such as TV. However this is only one side of the story.
My observation is that newspaper companies have become too dependent on the advertisement revenue, and because of that have lost sight of the need to deliver value to the customer. While the size of newspapers in terms of number of pages has been growing steadily, the amount of valuable information contained per reader has been steadily declined. I am saying average per reader, because a news papers generally contain lot of reading material, but a typical reader is interested in only a part of it. The quality of reading matter in terms of subjects covered, presentation and reliability of facts reported has also declined. Today, news in the newspaper has been reduced to just an inducement to the readers to expose them to the advertisements rather than their main purpose.
Because of these factors, newspaper companies have not been able to offer enough value to the customer to induce them to buy newspapers. Last year, when I visited USA, I was surprised to find that many newspapers were distributed free, yet not many people were interested in reading them.
Conditions in India may not be exactly same as that in the USA or other developed countries, but I find here that many people here are losing confidence in the quality and reliability of even the leading newspapers. People here still pay for and read newspapers, and the newspaper companies are not doing that badly, but the value delivered to the readers is definitely declining.
I believe the newspaper industry is in trouble for many reasons. Technology has made it possible for news to be updated on the spot, rather than every twenty-four hours with the latest newspaper edition. Online news sites have made it possible to track breaking news as it is unfolding, making newspapers a day late informing their readers.
Another reason that the newspaper industry is in trouble is accuracy. So many reports have inaccuracies that paying for a newspaper is almost a waste of money. I don't want to read about what report thinks, I want facts. This is not to say that online news sites do not have inaccuracies, but they don't cost money.