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Newspapers: Still relevant, vital and strong | Editor's Notebook
“Nobody reads newspapers anymore.”
“It’s time for newspapers to go all digital.”
“Newspapers can’t remain profitable in the digital age.”
We’ve all heard those comments. Perhaps some of you reading this agree with those statements.
I’m going to step out on a limb and say of these doomsayers, “They’re wrong.”
Sure, over the last decade numerous daily newspapers have abandoned print for digital-only editions, or have closed altogether. But most of those newspapers were in cities that had more than one newspaper. Birmingham. Honolulu. Phoenix. Seattle. Los Angeles (home of the Times, the Daily News and, at one time, the Evening Express, the Herald and the Herald-Examiner).
The death knell for the two-daily town began to be sounded not when the Internet was born, but with the advent of readily-accessible cable news (blame, or credit, the changing workplace too). We didn’t need to run to the newsstand on our lunch hour for that midday edition anymore. But we still needed and wanted a newspaper for the news and views closest to home.
That’s why the newspaper is a form of news delivery that still makes sense.
Newspapers are sharing readers’ time not only with TV but with the Internet and social media. But the printed newspaper, particularly the “local weekly,” is going strong, even as it uses the Internet and social media as tools to connect readers with information.
Check this out.
In a 2012 Reynolds Journalism Institute survey of 1,015 adults, 62.8 percent of mobile and non-mobile media users said they prefer news stories produced by professional journalists; 73.4 percent believe professional journalists play an important role in our society. Only 35.6 percent expect to get all their news from mobile digital services within the next 10 years.
In a 2012 Newspaper Association of America survey of 2,518 adults who read U.S. newspapers on a mix of print and/or digital platforms, 66 percent said print is a relaxing way to read the newspaper, followed by tablet, 60 percent; computer, 42 percent; and smartphone, 31 percent.
In the same survey, 61 percent said print provides a satisfying reading experience, followed by tablet, 60 percent; computer, 45 percent; and smartphone, 30 percent. Some 57 percent said they are highly satisfied with the reading experience of print. Tablet followed at 56 percent; computer, 48 percent; and smartphone, 32 percent.
Also in the same survey, 83 percent of tablet owners say they are more likely than smartphone owners, 75 percent, to have news apps. And according to digicareers.com, 57 percent of tablet users said they use their tablet to read newspapers; 62 percent said they use their tablet to read magazines.
Newspapers continue to have value and reach for businesses wanting to connect products and readers. In a BIA/Kelsey survey, of $151.3 billion projected to be spent in advertising in 2016, 13.2 percent will be spent in newspapers. Direct mail leads with 27.6 percent, television is second with 14.3 percent. Radio is fourth, 11.7 percent; online/interactive is fifth, 10.7 percent. The remainder is spread over cable, Yellow Pages, mobile, magazines and email/reputation/presence management.
So, dear readers, the next time someone tells you time is running out for newspapers, set them straight. The discussion should not be about newspapers vs. digital. The discussion should be about newspapers AND digital, and how newspapers can build on their use of new media to dialogue with readers and connect them with information that is important and useful to them.
The Herald produces a Friday newspaper, a digital edition, a daily news website, an annual almanac, and a variety of special sections related to business, education and quality of life. The Herald is a leader in Facebook followers among newspapers in Sound Publishing Co., the largest newspaper publisher in Washington. All of the media we produce — digital and print — are important to the survival of the other.
We are blessed to live in an era of empowerment. In their day, our grandparent, witnessing a breaking news event, might find a phone booth and call the local paper. If a camera happened to be handy, he or she might snap a photo and deliver the film to the newspaper office. Today, we just snap and send with our phone. And news and information is readily available to us in a form that fits the moment — TV, radio, digital, magazine and newspaper — the printed record of the events that shape our lives.
— Editor's note: Richard Walker, editor of the North Kitsap Herald, a sister paper of the Journal of the San Juan Islands, is a former editor of the Journal, 1999-2011.