By Mollie Campbell.
It has been said that by 2040, newspapers will have become extinct worldwide, but the way in which things are going at the moment, tells me that they will disappear long before that date. In fact, in the UK and US, newspapers are already being deemed insignificant, and really, how many times do you see people reading newspapers instead of clutching phones when you’re walking down the street? Newspapers are going out of print every day, as the necessity to read the news physically has been wiped out by the convenience of online magazines, apps and even just search engines like Google.
The launch of online newspapers/news sites has completely dominated the journalism industry, everything is done online. I love reading books, but I haven’t bought a newspaper in over a year, now, I could sit here and lecture people on the importance of keeping reading (newspapers) alive, but I am a culprit myself. Yet there are some important things that we really are forsaking if we ditch newspapers for good. The first is the way the press write features and headlines, when a journalist or editor is writing a story for print, there is always at least some element of caution when printing something that they perceive as risky. There should be some kind of truth to it, only because of how final printing a paper is, once it’s out there it can’t be edited, people will see through any sort of lie that you have published, which could lead to a loss in sales. Well, for broadsheet papers at least, I can’t say the same for tabloids, who seem to print just about anything and everything! But when it comes to publishing articles online, nobody is as cautious, because if they publish something that is too over the top, or in factual, they can just edit it, or even delete it, in a second. Not only does this make it far easier for people to be subject to some sort of hidden political agenda, but it also makes writing a lazy/sloppy area.
Moreover, if people are aware of the fact that they can just delete or edit articles when things go wrong, they won’t take as much time to really think about what they are writing. The effort and patience is gone, creating a generation of lazy or even grammatically challenged journalists. They won’t have the same calibre as that of a writer forty years ago, who actually had to make sure that their final draft was impeccable, or the whole world would see their mistake, which could have led to them being fired or damaging the reputation of the newspaper. There isn’t that same level of care anymore, which is happening in a lot of area’s because of Social Media.
The topic I am about to delve into next is one that is and always will be a very big part of journalism, advertising. In newspapers, there are pages and pages of printed ads, surrounding every article you read. Newspapers were the perfect opportunity to reach audiences, but despite it taking up nearly every page, you aren’t forced to read it. You can skip over it, turn the page, or just completely ignore it, we had that option. Now that is gone, online newspapers now have the opportunity to turn their entire operation into something that is completely central to advertising; they put the needs of advertising before the needs of their actual content. Many newspapers like The Guardian for example, make you sign up in order to read an article, without doing so you can only read the first few sentences. So not only are they calling all the shots on how we read things, but they are also charging more than we would ever pay for a physical copy of a newspaper, with many online sites now charging monthly subscriptions. And if all newspapers online start doing this, we will have no option but to pay, completely monetising the industry even more than it already is. And when we do pay to read the articles, we are bombarded with ads left right and centre, often blocking the words on the screen in order to force us to consume them.
Moreover, this turns the industry and Social media in general, into a market, and we are the buyers being forced to shop even if we didn’t intend to. Then, these online newspapers, like many websites these days, have cookies and data policies. And we have to accept them in order to keep on reading, this gives them even more power, not only have they made us pay prices we wouldn’t have before, and bombarded us with tons of ads, they have also invaded our privacy in order to pile even more ads onto the screen, this time tailored to our interests by monitoring what we do online. If that’s not a modern example of Orwell’s 1984, I don’t know what is. Of course, there are pros to this as well, and not everyone is annoyed by these ads, in fact for a lot of people find them helpful, with some viewing them as an extraordinary possibility in this modern world, I just think that it’s a tad too invasive.
Although, there are many pros to the abolishment of newspapers, firstly, we could save a ton of paper which would be an incredible step in the right direction for the preservation of the planet, which is something that is much more important than people think in 2019. Secondly, it is more convenient to read the news online, with many people in full time work, juggling responsibilities, it doesn’t leave much time in the day to sit down and read a paper. This way, people can keep up to date with things, without sacrificing precious working hours, with many people reading news online during their commute to work. But there might not be as many of the population in favour as these newspaper companies projected, when the Independent ceased to print and moved online in 2016, they found that a lot of people didn’t take that digital leap with them, instead they just lost customers who switched to different physical newspapers. The switch to online platforms might actually just make people less interested, physical newspapers are harder to ignore than little online articles that people just seem to glance over instead of reading. The loss of the Independent as a liberal buffer between the left and right Guardian and Times will be felt politically, but other than that, it stands as a warning for newspapers out there thinking of making that digital leap, and the risk of losing such a large proportion of their readership if they do.
So there are many pros and cons to losing newspapers, and they are going fast. But according to statistics, people are still reading physical copies, and not everyone who reads articles online have stopped reading newspapers, it will take a while to get there, but when we do, what will happen? How will this shape the industry, and ultimately society?
Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear some different opinions on this subject!