The future of print newspaper

By Bolaji Akinola


The debate is still raging as to what the future holds for the print newspaper industry as it struggle for survival in this digital age. Not only are newspapers witnessing serious erosion of their fortunes in the face of declining circulation and advertisement revenues, they are also facing tough times competing for online revenue. A survey by Ipsos Group S.A. reveals that only 11% of those who read newspapers online said they would prefer to pay a one-off fee for a mobile application, while 3% of those surveyed said they would opt for a monthly online subscription. Paying for online access per day and per article were the least popular digital options, both recording 1% of all surveyed. 31% said they would not pay for news while it is available elsewhere online for free. An overwhelming 77% said they had no interest whatsoever in paying for news content online. For the 83% that said they had accessed news online in the month before the survey was conducted, the sites of the traditional national newspapers didn’t make the top five.

The top five visited news websites for these users were, in order: BBC News (34%), Google News (17%), Sky News (6%), Yahoo! (5%) and MSN (5%). The majority of those surveyed by YouGov were also reluctant to pay for online content, with 83% saying they would refuse to pay. Only 2% were prepared to shell out for online content in the current format, while a further 4% would pay on the grounds that the content was not available anywhere else.

The survey is in tandem with the findings of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism Digital News Report 2016, which posits that there is severe pressure on the business models of both traditional publishers and new digital media players. The report highlights the growing popularity of social media as the preferred source of news across the globe, at the expense of newspapers. The key findings of the study are as follows:

  • Half (51%) of the population sampled said they used social media as source of news each week. 12% said social media were their main sources of news.
  • Social media were significantly more important for women and for the young. 28% of those between ages 18 and 24 said social media were their main source of news.
  • The growth of news accessed and increasingly consumed via social networks, portals and mobile apps means that the originating news brand gets clearly noticed less than half the time in some countries such as the UK, and Canada. In countries like Japan and South Korea, where aggregated and distributed news is already more widespread, the brand only gets noticed around a quarter of the time when accessed through news portals.
  • Television news still remains most important for older groups but overall usage has continued to decline, particularly for ‘appointment to view’ bulletins and amongst younger groups.
  • In terms of devices, smartphone usage for news is sharply up, reaching 53% of the sampled population, while computer use is falling and tablet growth is flattening out.
  • Most consumers are still reluctant to pay for general news online, particularly in the highly competitive English-speaking world, but in some smaller countries, protected by language, people are twice as likely to pay.
  • Business problems for many publishers have worsened with the rise of advert blocking, which is running at between 10% (Japan) and 38% (Poland) but much higher amongst under-35s and people who use news the most. The vast majority of those who have ever downloaded a blocker are using them regularly, suggesting that once downloaded people rarely go back.
  • Only around 8% of smartphone users currently use an ad-blocker but around a third of respondents say they plan to install one on their mobile in the next year.
  • News has become a more important part of the social media mix over the last year.
  • As news now comes to people through social media feeds, there is increasingly less need to go directly to a news website.

Clearly, there is no future for print newspapers. But for how much longer can they survive? I will be happy to hear your views.


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