Is Newspaper A Survivor In This Era of Digital News?
Entertainment and news are among the top sectors that are tapped into on a smartphone today. The exponential growth of digital media platforms has been possible because of this. The big question this World Press Freedom Day is, have digital media news platforms replaced the printed newspapers in India? Is digital media the future of journalism? Is newspaper a survivor in this era of digital news?
The Two-Audience Dilemma
There exists a two-audience dilemma through the news reporting industry, divided into digital and printed. There is a boom in the initiatives being taken for more revenue from digital audiences with membership plans, email newsletters, trial subscriptions offers, etc. However, are these initiatives profitable enough to replace the printed media altogether?
Numbers & Revenue
The readership fall of the print media has gone down on a global scale almost everywhere, except in India. In fact, the average time spent on newspapers may have gone down among the young population, but newspaper circulation has grown in India by 60%, from 2006 with 39.1 million copies to 2016 with 62.8 million copies.
As far as many other big media markets are concerned, this circulation has dropped in the UK by 12%, the US by 7%, and France & Germany by 3%.
Despite the increase in the number of subscriptions for digital news platforms, a major part of the revenue in the newspaper industry is still being driven from printed newspapers. This can be accounted for a number of reasons including growing literacy, urbanization, credibility, and ad-driven revenue.
One significant reason for this growth of print media circulation and revenue in India is the growth in literacy levels in the country through the past 20 years and the growth in disposable income.
Interestingly, there has been an exponential rise in the demand for Hindi printed newspapers in India in the past few years.
The rise in the circulation of Hindi newspapers can be accounted to a swift rise of 65% in the literacy rate in predominantly Hindi-speaking states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha.
Apart from this, urbanization and the credibility of the written word as against the digital word and television news, have been major contributors to this growth.
Preference or Emotional Connect?
Are printed newspapers not lagging behind in circulation for the simple reason of an emotional connect, or is it driven by a preference for the specific advantages that printed media has over digital media?
The supposed “information apocalypse” caused by digital revolution is more of a misinformation and comes with zero credibility. While digital media bombards you with breaking news and related information, most of that information usually turns out to be incomplete or false, and a lot of times, even biased. It can be a struggle to find an unbiased version or the full story on digital media, as it is usually backed by personal opinions and assumptions.
A newspaper, on the other hand, makes you spend lesser time to get an accurate account of the story with complete information. By relying on newspapers for news, you save yourself from innocent mistakes of misinformation and speculation. All in all, a newspaper provides you a structured information with an overall better value to the reader.
The current situation in the Indian news industry is more driven by the disadvantages of news on digital media than the advantages of printed media.
Business Viability – Newspapers vs Digital Media
Despite the fall, newspapers are still earning revenue from print advertising. The number of flyers that come along with the printed newspapers may be declining, but they still continue to be a revenue source for the newspaper companies. This is the reason why a steady circulation of the printed newspaper means a steady ad-driven revenue for the companies.
Digital ads are currently not enough to drive enough revenue for a profitable business. To make digital news that powerful, a yet-to-be-discovered business model needs to come into play.
Digital news can surely increase the revenue for a news company, but till the time it is not strong enough to be solely responsible for making the entire business a profitable one, newspapers are here to stay.
Is Print Media Counting Days?
No one knows for sure. The fact remains that newspapers have been around for ages, and they do not seem to be going anywhere just yet. Newspapers may not have the same profit margins as they did back in the day, but they are still making revenue and being profitable, making the printed newspaper business a viable one.
A significant percentage of the audience is still opting for printed newspapers instead of the digital versions, which is another positive sign that newspapers are not going anywhere for now.
However, readership of the newspaper may continue to decline and move closer towards extinction with every passing day if the presentation style and format of the news does not change keeping in trend with the current mindset of the readers.