An Essay on the Decline of Newspaper Circulation
The typical definition of a newspaper terms it as a regular or daily periodical publication that contains a host of information about a particular geographical region or area of interest. Because of the wide range of information contained in newspapers, it is many things to many people. For some, the newspaper is the most reliable source of political updates while to others it is the best place to view sports clippings. For bereaved families, the most appropriate method of announcing the demise and funeral arrangements for a deceased person is through the obituaries found at the back of the newspaper. Manufacturers of different commodities also see the newspaper differently; to them it is an ideal place to advertise their latest products. In this respect it can be said that the newspaper is a versatile publication. Up until the end of the 20th Century, this beloved publication was a darling of the masses because there was always something for almost everybody who had the ability to read. Despite this adoration and usefulness, the newspaper’s popularity is on the decline. Fewer and fewer people are purchasing newspapers and if the current trend is anything to go by then the future only holds oblivion for this periodical.
Fifty years ago such a trend may have been a cause for alarm because it would have been an indication of a very grave phenomenon. Today however, the trend of declining circulation of the newspaper all over the world is being treated with extreme casualty and it may very well seem that nobody is alarmed by this. Not even the publishers of the papers seem to be concerned. It seems like the industry has accepted its fate and is taking the slow death gracefully. There are two main factors that may be contributing to this trend. These two factors are the changing market dynamics and the other contributing factor is advancements or changes in technology. Market dynamics of the 21st Century dictate that products have to be highly customer-centric if they are to thrive in the current economy. Technological advancements on the other hand have opened the floodgates for a plethora of gadgets that enable end-users to get on-demand news (Berman 29).
When the business model of the conventional newspaper is analysed in relation to the market, it is clear that these publications are usually prepared for the mass market. An adequate analysis of this however calls for the identification or isolation of the key product that newspapers deliver to the market. A lay-person will quickly point out that the newspaper itself is the product but upon deeper deliberation on the subject, it emerges that the newspaper seeks to deliver information to the customer. That makes it first a highly perishable product and secondly one whose actual product is intangible. The newsprint paper and the ink are merely mediums for this transfer to take place.
Once one has read the newspaper from cover to cover, its value declines significantly. This is where the mass-market element comes in. Newspapers have different sections and it is seldom to find a person who takes a keen interest on everything it has to offer. A politician for instance will only focus on the first few pages with political stories. News organizations that prepare these newspapers strive to make sure there is something of interest for everybody. Despite their best efforts however, this approach dents the quality of information that an individual may be in pursuit of and this leads to the next reason why there is a trend of declining circulation of newspapers.
Technological advancements have had such a profound impact in the way information is transferred from one point to another across the world and this has led pundits and socialists alike to concede that we are living in the so called ‘information age.’ This all started in the mid-1990s with the introduction of the World Wide Web, better known as the internet in today’s terms. This advancement brought with it websites of different genres and some of the early adopters of this form of communication were international and soon after localized news corporations. They saw this new development in technology as an ideal way of presenting their key product, information, in a more interactive manner. This modernization soon began eating into the lifeline of the newspaper industry when the publishers began giving readers the option of viewing their favourite dailies on the web (Franklin, 307; Perez, 13).
At the same time, communication gadgets improved in performance and portability and within no time mobile handsets had internet access. The number of manufacturers of internet enabled gadgets also increased and this increased concurrently with the increasing number of news outlets on the web. This led to specialized news outlets that focused their energies exclusively on specific topics such as sport, nature, religion and other items. This meant that the customers had now gained power to control the news they accessed. As usual, the main casualty of these developments was the newspaper (Franklin 306).
The number of people who buy or subscribe to newspapers continues to decrease today because the level of quality if information accessible online has the effect of making the newspaper appear cumbersome and backward. In other words, the technological advancements that have taken place in the information-technology realm assures the reader the same news that would have been delivered by a newspaper, only that this time it is more vibrant and interactive. With sites such as YouTube, it is possible to read a story then watch a video of what is being described and this greatly enhances the experience of the user (Franklin, 310).
It is also very possible that continued efforts to sensitize people on environmental conservation are subliminally telling people that paperless technology is superior to the printed. This has been seen through numerous campaigns that associate printing with the support for deforestation of the worlds’ remaining forest resources. This could make people to subconsciously support the idea of not being part of the problem (Cochrane et al, 4).
Though the newspaper is slowly declining, it would be an overstatement to say that it will sink into oblivion any time soon. The people who buy them will continue to reduce but given the fact that technology too has several limitations of its own means that there will always be a niche market that prefers the old fashioned newsprint. Perhaps market forces may tilt in favour of the newspaper and revive the circulation. At the same time it is possible that in the distant future, it will go completely virtual. These speculations however can only be confirmed or proved wrong by the passage of time.
Berman, Saul J., and Lynn Kesterson-Townes. “Connecting with the digital customer of the future.” Strategy & Leadership 40.6 (2012): 29-35.
Cochrane, Thomas, Helen Sissons, and Danni Mulrennan. “Journalism 2.0: exploring the impact of mobile and social media on journalism education.” Proceedings of the IADIS International Conference on Mobile Learning. 2012.
Franklin, Bob. “The future of newspapers.” Journalism Practice 2.3 (2008): 306-317.
Perez-Pena, Richard. “Newspaper circulation continues to decline rapidly.” The New York Times 27 (2008).