As people have become individualized over the recent years, their expectation from newspapers has also began to vary. Therefore instead of procuring content for the average reader, we must adapt before our way of doing journalism becomes obsolete
As humans, we are all a little curious and worry when thinking about the future. Whether it is our personal future or our future as a society is irrelevant. When Paul Valery was asked, "What is the future?" he responded: "The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be."
Despite our yearning for the past and delighting in nostalgia we must accept the truth that none of us are frozen in time. We must adapt to be adamant in these new conditions and grasp its core, especially us journalists.
We should do this, but without using cliches like "people were slaves before and in the future they will be robots" or without prophesizing that "journalism will die."
Let us take a look at how we perceived time in the past and how we live it now. By doing so, we can weed out hearsay and cliches that can serve as an appetizer in a friendly yet empty conversation.
You might wonder from where newspapers get their money. Well, there are two answers to that question. The first source of income for newspapers is its circulation, or in other words the number of copies sold. The second source of funding for newspapers is advertisement revenues.
When we look at the statistics we can see that both have been following a decreasing trend for quite some time.
According to a report by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), during 2013 newspapers gained $163 billion in circulation and advertisement revenues. But this number was significantly higher a couple of years ago. In 2008 newspapers were getting $187 billion. Of course these numbers do not represent net profits. Since logistical expenses and prime costs increased in this period, profits are also affected by it.
In this picture, the chain effect is also quite visible. For every 100 newspapers sold in Europe in 2012, only 77 newspapers were sold in 2013. Similarly, for every 100 euros in advertisement revenues in 2012, the number decreased to 82 euros in 2013.
In recent years we have seen the rise of another branch of journalism as well. Web journalism. Therefore, the cost of renting advertising space on newspaper websites is much more expensive than it used to be. Not only newspaper websites, but on entirety of web we see sizeable increase in their number and method
Necessity of originality
Let's put aside newspapers that have no need or desire for profit. After all, some newspapers are not driven by it and follow a perhaps irrational mission different from the rest of the industry. We can present public broadcasting and marginal broadcasting as examples of this type of publishing.
But for these two types and others like them the advertisement media should realize the deadly contrast.
Seth Godin posted an article titled "Mass production and mass media" on his personal blog on Feb. 21. He said in the article: "For fifty years, TV and TV-thinking was the shortcut. Make average stuff for average people (by definition = mass) and promote to every stranger within reach. It worked.
"But mass is fading, fading faster than our desire to be mass marketers is fading. The shortcut doesn't work every time now, and the expectation that success is the same as popularity is still with us." In another words, while producing content for everyone worked until now, with the individualism of today, people are after a personalized touch. This also affects the advertising sector and we see more and more personalized advertisements while visiting different websites.
He is right on this point, because when talking about mass media we must realize it has become more sophisticated and lumping its participants as an average Joe became that much harder. Therefore uniformity is replaced with originality and generality has been replaced with individuality. Instead of focusing on them, attention is shifted to the individual user.
As with every evolution, some people will be left behind. Traditional media executives may remain blind to these facts, but as Albert Einstein said: "I never think of the future. It comes soon enough." Today was the future of yesterday and tomorrow will be the future of today.
In light of what we mentioned earlier, we can reach a conclusion and present a different answer to claims of journalism dying. Even though journalism will endure this era, it is clear that it will transform its style. Only one option remains if we are to keep up. We must accept the facts and plan our future accordingly.
There are 40 daily newspapers that circulate on the national level. When we look at these, the only thing that awaits us is a different commentary on the same picture. They publish the same stories, feature the same events and, besides occasional "special news," one cannot see any fundamental difference. Sometimes they even use the same photographs. The only thing that is different about them is their perspective.
What causes this, you might ask. Well, all of these 40 newspapers share the same source. They focus on the same thing when it comes to the basics of journalism. If we are to present a solid example of this situation I might mention the monopoly of news agencies. After all, approximately 40 percent of these daily newspapers are filled with news from the same agencies. For further reading you might take a look at a previous Reader's Corner article, "News agencies and journalism," from May 25, 2014.
Of course there is the issue of plagiarism on newspaper websites.
It is very clear that sustainability is out of the question for newspapers in their current state. If we are to survive, we must redefine our audience and change our perspective of the concept of news. We must adopt originality as a motto and also increase the ratio of our distinctive content. We must abandon our dry "who, what, when, where, why and how" type of writing and look for new stories to relay in a new manner.
Another change in our mentality is prioritizing digital publishing. The future of journalism cannot be built by web editors who average one news story every 20 minutes. The fact is that in time we will have to transfer the editorial office's energy from print to digital. That much is clear. So why don't we start that already?
As Jean Paul Richter said: "The past and future are veiled; but the past wears the widow's veil, the future, the virgin's."