By Charitha Dissanayake –
The Age – One of the remaining broadsheet newspapers in Australia has decided to reduce the size of their newspaper from next year. It has a history of 158 years and is associated with their radio and online business. As a result of the restructure of the process it has decided to close down the Melbourne and Sydney printing plants. In the meantime they will introduce the digital subscription from next year which is very similar to the New York Times in US, readers would be able to access a certain number of stories free but if they want more they will have to pay.
The re-structuring will cut down 1900 jobs including a substantial number of editorial positions. Garry Linnell, editorial director of FairFax Metropolitan Newspapers which publishes The Age says, the move to a tabloid format is not an issue. But there would be “some adjustments” to the length of the articles. Some articles will be shortened.
The step taken by the media giant raises the issue of the future of the newspaper. Will it remain as the newspaper we used to read at the start of the day?
According to Professor Stephen Quinne, it is expensive to produce a newspaper. In the newspaper industry you need a lot of people beyond the editorial staff. Then we have to think about the switching to digital. The influence of social media or introducing new tools such as iPad, iPhone , SmartPhone or Kindle push us to take a decision. But it hasn’t changed the room for the news in the society. But we have to think about the mode of delivery. Marc Andreessen who found the Netscape says ‘If you are the guy who delivers ice to people’s ice boxes, at a certain point you have to get into selling refrigerators.”
As Andreessen says the media institutions who delivered news to the readers, now need to supply news finding machines to readers. This is a challenge. Simply it is above, just printing a newspaper and distributing it all over the country.
Tomorrows journalism will appear on a variety of platforms designed to read as many people as possible at all times of the day such as social media, mobile alerts or online readers.
According to Professor Quinne, some older news consumers will prefer to read news on paper. But during the next two decades the market will be decided by the Generation Y, who is born after 1990. Most of them have spent their entire life in an e-World. This means the word ‘traditional newspaper readership’ will not be replaced. Therefore media institutes have to take brave steps to go digital which will help them to survive economically.
A survey conducted within the Australian journalism students found that 90% of them did not read newspapers and preferred to watch TV or online news while they wanted to be print journalists.
The change of the newspaper medium affects a few parties. Firstly, the journalists have to refresh their writing style. The journalists who used to write lengthy articles for the broadsheets on broad subjects such as science, politics arts or economics have to identify the limitations of the web oriented writing such as the number of words or the presentation with one or two paragraphs. The journalists who followed the news features or detailed reports such as courts or the share market have to study how to present in a limited area without or less graphs and pictures. Most of the journalists used to elaborate their story with the related pictures, now have to cut down to the profile sized images and use hyperlinks to their story or related articles is one advantage they can use. The space for the pictorial could be reduced and more space will be allocated to the reader’s comments with pictures. For example if there is an incident of a flash flood or a storm in a rural area the news sites can survive with the reader’s response pictures such as mobile phone uploads which could be of low quality, until their professional photographers reach the scene. On the other hand it will hand the 2-way communication between the reader and the paper. The danger is the media institutions not depending on their own photographers. Instead of reporting to an office based newspaper, journalist also turns into different mediums, as a result of going digital. Paul Gillian, a senior journalist who used to work in Washington Post and New York Times, is now running his blog ‘newspaper death watch’, leaving the traditional newspaper office. Sri Lankan journalist Malinda Seneviratne and D.B.S. Jeyaraj who used to be traditional newspaper journalists, are now writing for their own blogs. According to Gillian ‘the high fixed lost of print publishing makes the major metro newspaper business model unsustainable, in a world that increasingly wants information to be free’.
It’s a new experience for the advertiser as well. Instead of still pictures they have to produce multi- colour advertisements with ‘Flash’ animations. They also face the limitations of space.
Printing and distribution is another arm to re-think. Just imagine how much it will cost to deliver a newspaper to a house in a remote area, 400 km away from the printing press. The printing cost will be affected by the cost of labour and the fuel charges to run the machines. In the meantime the transport and different types of levies add on to the distribution cost of the paper. But readers are not ready to pay a big amount of money on their daily newspaper, as they spend on clothing, food or on upgrading a car or a computer. The newspaper has a designated position in our life. It’s only to update our knowledge or the information. Thereafter we throw it to the bin. According to this routine no one can add any value to the newspaper. But in contrast if you buy a suite from a high end shop paying more or if you pay more to upgrade your car it will add social status, comfort and efficiency to your life.
Considering all these negative impacts, online newspapers have turned to play an important role in the global mass media, extending the potential audience of individual newspapers beyond the limits imposed by physical distribution of print on paper. According to media expert P.J. Boczkowski, the hype surrounding online newspapers and the trumpeted death of the traditional newspaper are, to some extent at least justified: online newspapers are, undoubtedly changing the way many newspaper institutions operate.
I, recall the days, I used to work in a tabloid newspaper where the marketing department always pressurised the management to go for a broadsheet. The argument was that the advertisers were not attracted to the tabloid as they were not representing the mainstream. Though it has changed into a broadsheet, it couldn’t made any significant difference in the circulation or advertising. At present the traditional newspaper does not produce any news or information but is just a tool. But the web produces more and more news with quality content, breaking the limitations of the old newspaper.