Here's an article I wrote in October 2008 regarding the future of newspapers:
Philip Meyer has written a thoughtful article for the American Journalism Review titled “The elite newspaper of the future”.
Meyer is regarded as something of a prophet, having written “The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age” in 2004.
In his latest essay he argues:
"A smaller, less frequently published version packed with analysis and investigative reporting and aimed at well-educated news junkies that may well be a smart survival strategy for the beleaguered old print product."
I agreed with his observation that (post war) newspapers were all things to all people. That’s largely true today in regional areas.
“Few read the entire paper, but many read the parts that appealed to their specialized interests.”
My father thought a newspaper good value just for the crossword, but I wonder how many people complete the puzzle today?
Meyer’s comment which hit home to me was that newspapers would survive by maximising the part of their business least vulnerable to substitution: community influence. He envisages newspapers trimming down to a specialised product and serving a narrow market well.
My interpretation of exercising community influence does not exclusively involve editorial opinions or comment pieces, as discussed in a previous post. In fact, I think some newspapers mistake community influence for proclaiming their own viewpoints.
I define it more as reporting local issues in a way that brings attention to things that matter in a community.
The newspaper’s opinion is irrelevant. Reporting an issue should involve stating the facts for people to form their own conclusions and reporting those views. Meyer summarises it this way:
“The raw material for this processing is evidence-based journalism, something that bloggers are not good at originating.”
He says the newspaper endgame should concentrate on retaining core values of trust and responsibility. “The mass audience is drifting away, and resources should be focused on the leadership audience.”
I think Australian regional newspapers have several years before the same issues are paramount, however it’s important for those of us in the industry that we be prepared.
We need to be flexible enough to change fixed views that might have been tried and true 20 years ago, but have less relevance today.