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Understanding Current Trends in the Newspaper Industry

Instructor: Mary Matthiesen-Jones

Mary has worked around the world for over 30 years in international business, advertising, and market research. She has a Master's degree in International Management and has taught University undergraduate and graduate level courses .

The Internet and digital publishing technologies have transformed the newspaper business. Learn about seven trends that have emerged as technology has changed the face of newspapers in the 21st century.

Newspapers Today

Do you still have a newspaper delivered to your home? Do you buy one on the way to work? Or, are you like an increasing number of people around the world who get their news from digital editions of newspapers? The internet, digital publishing technologies, and changes in global media habits have resulted in dramatic changes in how newspapers are published and distributed, how news is gathered and reported, how newspapers make money, and even how much people trust the news they read.

Trend # 1: Changing Formats

In the mid-1980's print newspaper circulation in the U.S. reached its peak with some 63 million papers distributed each weekday. By 2016 this had fallen by nearly half to just under 35 million. So what happened? The internet happened. As news became increasingly available online and through a wide range of sources, newspaper readers took to their tablets, phones, and computers to access what previously was only available in a printed newspaper. While accurate online newspaper readership is challenging to measure, it is estimated that in 2016 there were 11.7 million unique monthly visitors to the websites of the top 50 US daily newspapers, an increase of 21 percent from just the year before.

Trend # 2: Changing Sources

The growth in digital newspapers does not make up for the gap between digital growth and print declines. So where are readers turning? More than two-thirds of Americans get at least some news from social media websites such as Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, and through Google searches. This use of social media is not just among the young. More than half of Americans over age 50 report using social media for news. Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are quickly becoming the preferred method for getting news online, enabling consumers of news to access their favorite sources anywhere, anytime. This usage is expected to only continue to grow, with over 70 percent of global internet consumption already coming from mobile devices.

Trend # 3: Changing Demographics

Traditionally, print newspaper readers have tended to be older, more affluent, and more educated than non-newspaper readers. That remains true around the globe for education and income levels even when looking at use of digital news sources. With the advent of digital news media, however, digital news consumption is preferred, worldwide, by younger readers. In the U.S., for example, millennials now make up nearly a quarter of all newspaper readership.

Trend # 4: Changing Financial Models

Changing demographics and media habits have also resulted in changes in the financial models of newspapers. Newspapers traditionally have generated the bulk of their revenue from advertising, with subscriptions accounting for only a small fraction of overall revenues. However, in today's digital world, advertisers are more likely to place ads on social media sites than in digital newspapers. So newspapers, in order to fund their operations, are having to look at adapting subscription models to the digital world. In addition to offering digital-only subscriptions, newspapers like The New York Times often use a paywall strategy. Online readers can access a fixed number of stories per month for free. Once their limit, the wall, has been reached, readers then must pay. Other papers are trying a membership strategy with the underlying belief that the free content demonstrates enough value to justify a reader then subscribing. Papers like the The Guardian in the U.K. have proven that this strategy can work.

Trend # 5: Changing Reporting

While companies such as Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube are adding staff for news collection and distribution, traditional newsrooms are cutting staff. Especially in local papers, news is increasingly coming from wire services like the AP, so that the same stories may appear in multiple newspaper outlets on and offline. Newspapers are also experimenting with new technologies such as chatbots that can provide readers with personalized news feeds and headlines based on the key terms that an individual uses. And technology has enabled digital newspapers to become interactive, with readers able to comment in real time on stories. Readers can now become part of the reporting and editorial process.

Trend # 6: Changing Trust in Social Media

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