With The Growth Of Online Media, Will The Newspapers Survive?
03 Jul 2017
The online media is growing at a fast pace, no doubt. People practically live their lives on the internet, taking their attention away from whatever does not have a leaning towards it. But does this necessarily spell doom for the newspaper; the hard, paper copy of the news items that had been in existence long before the advent of the internet?
The internet has its shortcomings, and this continually gives the newspaper a chance for survival.
Internet penetration among the Nigerian populace presently stands at 40%, towering at 10% above Newspapers’ 30% penetration. However, further analysis of the top activities performed on the internet shows that, although news remains the second most performed activity online, of the 40% internet users, only 4% visit the internet to get news information, while a chunk of them go online to chat and build social networks. The 4% culminates in 6 million online daily news readership. However, this is nothing compared to the 14.8 million daily readerships of the hard newspaper’s copy.
This proves that newspapers provide better reading experience than the online platform. Part of the reasons are entrenched in the fact that, texts in the newspapers are structurally put together in one place, and “this rigid structure allows a higher level of synthesis between news stories, the editorial commentary and other components of the print version” (Swets blog, 2012), thereby providing several unique benefits compared to their online counterparts.
In an EyeTrack research by Poynter Institute, Adam, (2007) reported that: “the fixed nature of the print prototype, where all the information on a topic was available on a single broadsheet page (as opposed to the online prototype, which appeared on as many as six screens), made readers absorb the details of the story better and more effectively.”
There is also an emphasis on space and robust content. The print versions provide enough space to contain their news content and therefore have more news reported in them than the online sites. This space limit indicates a necessity for the most effective and relevant reporting to meet the consumer needs at the other end, while the speed, flexibility, and expandability of online news sites, mean that these boundaries are not in place, and the emphasis has switched from considered, selected news, to all news, immediately and everywhere. It could be argued, therefore, that the newspaper version has had more editorial thought put into its content, and offers better value to the reader. And, being a stronger copy of record, as against the online sites whose contents can be changed and updated as many times as possible, the newspaper is transparent and focuses more on news, whereas the online edition can have split objectives, distracting from the purpose of informing.
Furthermore, newspaper readers recall news stories better than those who read from an online platform. In a research carried out in 1998 on examination of the difference in memory retention of print and online readers, with a focus on the New York Times, Tewksbury and Althaus found that “online readers were less likely to begin their reading with the international, national, and political news. They were also less likely to spend a large portion of their reading time with those sorts of news stories, thus less likely to recall them.” (Tewksbury, 2000)
To further give impetus to this claim, Jack Shafer (Shafer, 2011), narrating his ordeal, recalled, in his article:
Even though I spent ample time clicking through the Times website and The Reader, I quickly determined that I wasn’t recalling as much… Going electronic had punished my powers of retention. I also noticed that I was unintentionally ignoring a slew of worthy stories.
To wrap this up, online media has had unrivaled speed and spread (from sharing) which then further translates to WOM. We all seem to get all our news online these days from people who cut and paste and share…faster than a newspaper. On the flip side, despite the growth of online media, the newspapers will survive and keep on being an essential form of communication and information provision, right from the local to worldview. However, its relevance and readership will continue to decline over the years ahead, and might actually almost become extinct some decades from now, if the format and presentation style does not change.
Joshua Igbasan is innovative and insightful, with a knack for details in media deliverables and data analysis. An Associate Member (ARPA) APCON, also an alumnus of the School of Media and Communication. He holds an M.Sc. degree in Media and Communication from the prestigious Pan-Atlantic University. He is a Senior Executive in the Strategic Planning department at Brand Eye Media.
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