The problem newspaper encounter with the rise of the Internet is something that should be thought about very carefully or the mere change of paying for an e-information will not help the finance very much.
Whenever there’s a big piece of news, all the newspapers have their front page about it. However, it is easier for someone to go on the internet and to look up on any news site that exists — say, the BBC.
So far, newspapers can still cope with the delay they experience due to the printing and distribution process because a piece of news doesn’t need constant update to keep its relevance (knowing live the count of the AV vote doesn’t bring that much to a reader, does it?).
On the contrary, when people are willing to have news minute by minute, a newspaper simply isn’t quick enough.
I remember following the situation in Japan very closely: I was aware about anything there in a matter of minutes (thanks to the BBC again, as well as several other news sources). I also bought the papers everyday.
Going through their articles, I read with stupefaction that there was yet another explosion at Fukushima. I gathered my thoughts and tried to remember what I had heard live. I found out that this explosion wasn’t something new but just one of the firsts that happened, at least 24 hours before I saw it on the page.
I decided not to buy any papers for the following days, preferring to find the news on the internet instead.
The problem there was not that I came across the same information twice — only at a different time — but that the Japanese earthquake had taken absolutely every single page in the papers. Quid of Gaddafi for example? (What a relief this earthquake must have been for him…)
The thing was that for someone who was eagerly following the news live, buying a paper was totally useless; there was no incentive at all to buy them as information were out-of-date and there was nothing more than that in them.
I must precise that this problem really only appears when a major event happens, otherwise, there is a big enough variety in news to talk about several important things that will inform the reader. But the problem seemed so obvious that is stroke me more than any time before.
The other question could be: do we need instant news? Can we not wait for the morning (or the evening for the papers hitting the newsstands at that time) to know what’s happening? Do we really need to know each minute of the situation at Fukushima or in Afghanistan or God knows where else?
I am not particularly convinced we need that spontaneity so bad — what does it really bring in the end?
Well, I might be a bit too “old school” to like waiting and I’m afraid most of my friends aren’t like that.
The way newspapers can overcome this situation could be to give readers more detailed, in-depth argumentation rather than pure row data. Newspapers are a formidable way to explain things: why not trying to specialize in actually bringing news to an “upper” level where specialists give advice and causes and consequences are analised twice?
Even if it means having to publish the story a day later…
But hey, wait a minute: if a story takes too much time to be analyzed and is only published after a few days… Isn’t it a king of magazine? Should newspapers be transformed into magazines then?
Oh, I’m only realising this question is very complex indeed…
Image courtesy of ToonPool.com.