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In recent weeks there has been lots of discussion and analysis
of the newspaper and publishing industry. This includes
discussions with newspaper publishers, magazine publishers, and
analysis of the traction that online newspaper sites are receiving.
As you likely know, more and more people are making a shift to
reading their news online.
Whether this is subscribing to their favourite newspapers online
or simply reading their local daily for free online. As we know,
the digital revolution of newspapers has increased the audience for
newspapers - now readers are no longer limited by their location.
Someone living in a remote community but who has online access can
read the New York Times or the Guardian for example. As well,
publishers are recognizing this diversified readership and creating
"localised" editions of their newspapers so that those living in
India or Canada can get a more "personalised" product.
This movement towards and growth of online readership speaks to
the move all things really going digital. From books, magazines,
television programs and newspapers - users and customers are
increasingly turning to the Internet. Critics would suggest that
this is a trend that really has only begun to take shape and hold
in recent years. And some might even suggest that this drive for
digital publishing is a result of technology rather than with
publishers meeting consumer demand.
This is why it is very interesting to read a study from 1997
titled: Uses and
Gratifications of Online Newspapers: A Preliminary Study. And
yes, the date on this study is correct - 1997 - in the very early
days of the Internet. This study was conducted by researchers from
Rennsselear Polytechnic Institute and used both interviews and
visual study to determine how readers were responding to online
Now we won't go into the details of the study but what is
interesting are the supplemental studies and research that was
reviewed in advance of undertaking this 1997 study of online
newspaper usage and traction. In as early as 1986, publishers were
reporting a decline in newspaper readership - particularly with
younger readers. Publishers were revealing that fewer households
were subscribing to a daily newspaper and were turning to other
channels to get their news - such as television. In conjunction
with this readership and subscriber decline was a similar decline
in advertiser revenues.
This quote from 1994 should resonate with today's newspaper
publishers and analysts, "for millions of Americans, especially
young ones, newspapers have never played a significant role" and
"newspaper have been foundering for decades, their readers aging,
their revenues declining, their circulation sinking".
All of this with the rising cost of newspaper publishing costs
and the advent of the Internet, started an online revolution way
back in 1997. In 1995 there were 100 commercial newspapers online
and by August 1997 there were 1,733 newspapers with websites and an
The hypothesis from the 1997 study suggests:
"First, moving newspapers online might recapture young readers,
who have fallen away from the habit of reading hard-copy papers and
yet may be attracted to online services. Young readers have grown
up with computers and video games - perhaps they'll grow into the
newspaper habit, online... Moving newspaper production and
distribution online is promised to eliminate, or at least
alleviate, much of the cost associated with newsprint production
and distribution. Electronic publishing is a marriage between low
manufacturing costs and an expanding consumer market."
Convinced yet? Today in 2012 many folks are still trying to
maintain that consumers don't want "to read their news online" but
numbers and statistics are showing otherwise. With the New York
Times and Guardian reporting record numbers for online
subscriptions and declining hard-copy purchase - the proof is
really here in black and white. As the researchers from Rennsselaer
Polytechnic Institute hypothesised and learned in 1997, users are
willing to shift and read their news online.
The question that remains then is this, if people were
predicting in 1997 this move to online newspapers and even going so
far to highlight the benefits for both readers and publishers
- why are people still skeptical? Why has it taken so long for
online newspapers to become mainstream? One theory is that it has
taken this long for the technology to really catch-up to consumer
demand - the integration of digital paywalls, well-designed websites, added value
features such as video and subscriber bonuses. This of course leads
us to the next question: how and where do you get your
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