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Settling in for a hot cup of coffee and the morning paper is an American tradition as old as news itself. But walk into any Starbucks on a Sunday morning, and you’ll likely find traditional newspapers replaced by the glowing, rectangular screens of smartphones and tablets.
News is changing. More specifically, the way in which news is delivered is changing. Long gone are the days of waiting around for the local news report for the latest traffic update. Similarly, national news coverage is no longer limited to a one-hour evening time slot.
The news industry is inarguably evolving. Information has never been more accessible, leading to news that is instant and literally at our fingertips.
“People used to be really restricted geographically, where a handful of TV channels and one or two newspapers were the primary news sources,” said Aram Sinnreich, media professor at Rutgers University, who added that these sources were typically part of larger conglomerates that weren’t all that diverse.
“Now, all you have to do is go on Google News and you can see the same story covered by 500 different news outlets,” he said.
Unlike in years past, today’s news represents a broader range of viewpoints that are disseminated among a wider variety of platforms than ever before. As a result, people are turning more and more to local and national news sites, smartphone and tablet apps, partisan news and social media for quick information.
“I like the ABC news app because it lets me pick and choose what news I want to know about,” said Lisa Marringer, a 39-year-old early education teacher in East Meadow, New York.
Marringer points to a significant media trend — the reader directing his or her own news experience. Whether you’re looking for the latest developments in a local election, or you’re only interested in the gossip pages, you are in control of navigating your news intake.
Everyday folks are also playing a much larger role in the delivery of news than ever before.
“If there’s an earthquake, protest or scandal, for example, the first coverage we see is usually coming from the cell phone of an eye witness,” said Sinnreich. “Integrating that kind of consumer, ground up journalism into the reporting and analysis process has been a major change in the way the industry works.”
As the news industry makes room for citizen journalism and the rise in digital media, some argue that traditional print outlets aren’t as relevant as they used to be. Brand.com, a news media platform, argues that print is dead.
“Print media has a noble history of well-trained reporters creating in-depth and original content,” said Mike Zammuto, president of Brand.com. “This content has traditionally stemmed from a reporter’s work ethic and from the editorial standards of a print publication as a whole.”
According to Zammuto, that role is diminishing because print publishers are struggling to find viable avenues with which to fund that model of quality.
“The entire industry is in danger of disappearing or collapsing into a shadow of itself if publishers fail to change their business model drastically,” he said.
Traditional newspapers have taken a huge hit over the last decade. According to an August 2013 CNSnews report, ad revenue is down 55 percent since 2005.
“In the old days, traditional newspapers would rely on classified ads and display advertising for 75 to 80 percent of their total revenues,” said Sinnreich. “The sad reality is that newspapers are not as good at this as the Internet is. Sites that connect people directly, like Craigslist, have largely replaced classified advertising.”
According to Sinnreich, there’s a direct relationship between the inability to keep advertising dollars and the inability to subsidize hardcore, investigative journalism. In his opinion, this has only been exacerbated by the deregulation of the media in the United States, which has allowed large corporations to go on buying sprees. Clear Channel, News Corporation, Tribune Co. and Gannett, represent some of the most significant sales.
As advertising revenue goes down, it makes it that much harder for newspapers to deliver firsthand reporting. According to Sinnreich, many American media companies are closing foreign bureaus, laying off reporters and turning more and more to second-hand reporting.
But as more readers shift away from print, the opportunities for brand advertisers on digital platforms have exploded.
“There are certainly more opportunities for brand recognition,” said Zammuto. “Digital news presents a distribution platform through which individuals and brands can reach a particular demographic more easily and effectively than ever before.”
The gist here is that more options bring in more people. More people make it imperative for companies to brand themselves as effectively as possible.