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What’s the future of print news?

By in Opinions


Tech &Paper

The world of news media is evolving across the board. Whether through television, radio, newspapers or the internet the public is beginning to access and produce the news in alternate ways, piloting the industry toward a new era.

According to State of the Media’s 2013 report, “Estimates for newspaper newsroom cutbacks in 2012 put the industry down 30 per cent since 2000 and below 40,000 full-time professional employees for the first time since 1978.” Companies that 100 years ago were merely science fiction phenomena now flourish.

For example, a company called Narrative Science — a patented artificial intelligence authoring platform, according to their website — uses algorithms to produce news content without any human input.

The rising popularity of social media as a news source has created an ease of two-way conversations between the news-maker and its recipient. Digital news, transmitted to smart phones, personal computers, tablets and other such devices has seen a 16.6 per cent increase from 2011 to 2012 alone, according to the same report.

At its peak in 2005, the newspaper industry was producing $49 Billion in revenue primarily through advertising. That number has since shrivelled to $22 Billion in 2012. The decline in sales of printed newspapers has led to many publishers leaning toward posting the news through their websites.

The newspaper industry is not alone in its revolution either, with a 6.5 per cent overall decrease in viewing of the four major American television networks NBC, CBS, Fox and ABC. Changes are also reported in radio news, with emerging platforms of satellite radio providing entertainment and music stations taking precedence over traditional news radio from AM or FM stations.

According to a study from Pew Research, only about one third of Americans said they listened to news radio in 2013, down from around half the population in 1990.

Newspapers have avoided being the hardest hit by the changes through the introduction of pay walls, which charge users small fees to access information online.  In a move deemed overly cautious at the time, the Wall Street Journal was the first to implement a pay wall back in 1996— much to the chagrin of the contemporary reader.

The move gained them 200,000 subscriptions in a little over a year according to an article in 2010 by It helped the media giant avoid the fate of many newspapers across North America such as Rocky Mountain News, a former daily newspaper from Denver, Colorado which was forced to cease production due to financial difficulty on Feb. 27, 2009 after 150 years of business.

Magazines are encountering similar hardships, seeing a 10.4 per cent decrease in circulation between 2011 and 2012. Canada has since taken the lead in paywall usage, with roughly 80 per cent of Canadian daily newspapers using the fees to implement their revenue. The Winnipeg Free Press abstains from using paywalls so far and is the only major Canadian newspaper with this policy.

So, inquisitive Sheaf readers, you may find yourself wondering where college publications fit into all this. Interestingly, the story of college and university papers contrasts those of national publications, as it seems campus newspapers have a more loyal readership.

According to a national survey by, 55 per cent of college students read their respective newspaper in the last week and 82 per cent had perused its printed pages in the last month. The online version of the paper is generally less popular, with 18 per cent of students going online to access news.

Popularity of the printed publication stemmed from the accessability students have to it from on-campus racks, student unions and residence halls. The fact that student papers are paid for in part by student fees also contribute to their popularity. Bargain savvy students choose to gather news from the publication to which they already contribute financially and that is publishing tailor-made news for their age and area.

24 University of Saskatchewan students interviewed this week in the arts tunnel revealed comparable results. Six read the Sheaf online and eight read it in print; one read The Star Phoenix online and one read it in print; one read The Globe and Mail in print; six read the Metro in print; one read the Prince Albert Daily Herald in print and none access The Globe and Mail or Metro online.

A 4th year commerce student says he “only reads the Sheaf because he pays for it.” On the other hand, a 4th year medicine student, prefers to read because “it is more environmentally friendly” and finds it “easier to access.”

Another student reports that she reads the printed versions of both the Sheaf and the Metro “because they are readily available on campus.”

There is an undeniably enormous change underway in global news media. But the industry isn’t dying out — it’s evolving.

The desire to interact and update with one another is a primal instinct; what’s changed in the modern age is that context now reigns over content and the public is more able to ignite debate and question their news sources than ever before.

Some may argue that news media platforms that will flourish in the future are those that provide a take on the world that can be debated, rather than the ‘written in stone’ style of news reporting of the past. Regardless, publications in print or online that embrace information as a commodity and present the news in ways that incite dialogue are the way of the future.

Graphic: Cody Schumacher/Graphics Editor

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