The newspaper industry as we know it will likely continue to decline.
It’s not dead.
However, people don’t need to get their news from newspapers anymore.
The decline in the newspaper industry is similar to what’s happened in music (and what will probably happen to TV in the future).
It happens in a lot of industries. It’s progress. It’s a good thing for society. Or at least it has been in most cases.
The Music Industry
For much of the 20th Century, record companies made money not by selling music, but by selling a way to listen to music.
My generation would pay $12-20 or so for a CD in the ’90s.
Sure, we wanted the music itself obviously. But we really only had two ways to listen to that music.
Freely on the radio. But we had no control. Or we paid for the CD. Then we had control and could listen as much as we wanted.
The whole thing changed in the 2000s, though.
Technology made it easy for music to be shared. Not just by copying or burning someone else’s CD, but with digital music sharing.
The way to listen to music became much cheaper.
We won’t get into it too much more, but a final important point here is that people do value music. But there are so many people making it that it’s worth less. It’s easier to make music and get people to listen to it.
Therefore the price has dropped.
Concerts are a whole other thing, however. That’s an experience that can’t be copied. But that’s a topic for another time.
The Newspaper Industry
The newspaper industry faces a similar decline.
There are still solid CD sales in the music world. Heck, vinyl sales are still around and actually increasing.
Physical recorded music is not dead.
Printed newspapers won’t die, but they will decline until they reach some level that fits demand.
You’re seeing newspapers constantly laying people off. Reporters. Writers. It’s not nice to see. Nobody likes it. But it’s reality.
The reason is that news is very easy to get these days. The Internet has made news flow freely.
Anybody with a phone can instantly share news on Twitter. A reporter doesn’t have to be on the scene.
Anybody that loves football can start a blog and share their thoughts. And many do. For free. They don’t care about the money.
That makes it difficult for newspapers to charge money for subscriptions. It makes it difficult to find advertisers when the papers are losing readers.
And newspapers haven’t transitioned well to the online world either…
A couple years ago I wrote that online publications were bloated.
In an effort to monetize, many publications need to shower readers with all kinds of ads.
If anything this has gotten worse the last couple years.
Again, the same problem exists.
Anyone can create content and publish it for anyone to see online.
And people are creating content more than ever.
It’s difficult to charge for content or to have annoying ads when people have lots of options. You have to be really good to be able to charge or to have annoying advertising.
So what’s the future of content?
I think there are two elements.
One is the continuation of people creating content without expecting much in return. They’ll post on social media, blogs and YouTube and on podcasts with payment being attention and recognition.
Building a solid reputation can lead to money in other ways. Jobs, businesses, sponsorships and more.
The second element is branded content.
We’re seeing this in professional sports and in the NFL especially. The team I follow is the Green Bay Packers. I remember a few years ago the team hired a writer that had been in newspapers for part of his career.
That reporter was close to retirement age, but he said that he thought the future of football reporting would be with the teams and not with newspapers.
See, the team doesn’t need all kinds of crazy ads (although some still do it in an effort to get every last dollar possible) on their content. They get money in different ways. Tickets, TV deals, merchandise, etc.
Now, obviously a writer that works for the Packers is probably writing mostly positive things about the Packers. And people know and recognize this. But they still consume the content.
Businesses have an opportunity. They have an opportunity to create content, earn attention and sell their products and services.
Newspapers are struggling to monetize the content they create. Businesses have an advantage because they sell products and services. Newspapers don’t.
People will know that a business writing about a certain topic has some bias. But that doesn’t mean the content isn’t valuable or entertaining. And the people will love it if the business avoids annoying things like ads, popups and things like that. It’ll be wonderful compared to the annoying newspaper websites.
This future is already happening. Newspapers and online publications won’t die, but they likely will decline to some point. Content is easy to create and easy to get to the people.
People no longer need to pay for a way to consume content. They may pay for some premium types of content. But not most content.
They can get that from bloggers, YouTubers…and also businesses that offer the content for free.
The key for businesses is embracing a content strategy and using the attention and traffic to earn new customers for their products and services.