The Revolution of Digital Newspapers

The Revolution of Digital Newspapers
Image source: Google

The newspaper industry is all about bringing the current events happening all around the world to the people. The newspaper industry is globally moving from traditional print technology to digital technology as everyone seems to generally prefer digital and mobile platforms.

However, print media continues to be an attractive platform for image advertisers and premium segment readers in the global market. Diversifying revenue streams have become a big priority for publishers all over the world as traditional business models face pressure to generate revenue.

Digital publishing, diversified business models, changing distribution channels, strategic partnerships, and convergent platforms are driving the newspaper industry globally. Virtual reality is another area where publishers are starting to look at. Publishers are also focusing on building in-house data and analytics capabilities.

According to official sources, the daily paid circulation of newspapers was 60 million in 2000, and in 2016, that number had plummeted to 33.5 million which further went down to 28.6 million in 2018.

As a result of this, publishers are turning their focus towards more consumer-centric business models which can outpace the digital platforms revenue by a good margin. Many newspapers are currently downsizing or going online because of internet reading subscribers rising globally.

The internet, digital publishing technologies, and changes in global media habits have resulted in dramatic changes in how newspapers are published and distributed, and along with that many trends have been emerging in the industry:

1. Changing Formats

In the mid-1980's print newspaper circulation reached its peak with some 63 million papers distributed each weekday. By 2016 this had fallen by nearly half to just under 35 million. As news became increasingly available online and through a wide range of sources, newspaper readers took to their tablets, phones, and computers to access what previously was only available in a printed newspaper.

While accurate online newspaper readership is challenging to measure, it is estimated that in 2016 there were 11.7 million unique monthly visitors to the websites of the top daily newspapers, an increase of 21 percent from just the year before.

2. Changing Sources

The growth in digital newspapers does not make up for the gap between digital growth and print declines. More than two-thirds of world population get at least some news from social media websites such as Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, and through Google searches.

Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are quickly becoming the preferred method for getting news online, enabling consumers of news to access their favourite sources anywhere, anytime. This usage is expected to only continue to grow, with over 70 percent of global internet consumption already coming from mobile devices.

3. Changing Demographics

Traditionally, print newspaper readers have tended to be older, more affluent, and more educated than non-newspaper readers. That remains true around the globe for education and income levels even when looking at use of digital news sources. With the advent of digital news media, however, digital news consumption is preferred, worldwide, by younger readers.

In the U.S., for example, millennials now make up nearly a quarter of all newspaper readership.

4. Changing Financial Models

Changing demographics and media habits have also resulted in changes in the financial models of newspapers. Newspapers traditionally have generated the bulk of their revenue from advertising, with subscriptions accounting for only a small fraction of overall revenues.

However, in today's digital world, advertisers are more likely to place ads on social media sites than in digital newspapers. So newspapers, in order to fund their operations, are having to look at adapting subscription models to the digital world.

In addition to offering digital-only subscriptions, newspapers often use a paywall strategy. Online readers can access a fixed number of stories per month for free. Once their limit, the wall, has been reached, readers then must pay. Other papers are trying a membership strategy with the underlying belief that the free content demonstrates enough value to justify a reader then subscribing.

5. Changing Reporting

While companies such as Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube are adding staff for news collection and distribution, traditional newsrooms are cutting staff. Especially in local papers, news is increasingly coming from wire services like the AP, so that the same stories may appear in multiple newspaper outlets on and offline.

Newspapers are also experimenting with new technologies such as chatbots that can provide readers with personalized news feeds and headlines based on the key terms that an individual uses. And technology has enabled digital newspapers to become interactive, with readers able to comment in real time on stories. Readers can now become part of the reporting and editorial process.

Digital Newspapers and Advertising Markets

Newspaper companies are expanding capabilities across different channels spanning from mobile, advertising technology, video, digital audio/podcasts, and data analytics/data mining. Digital platforms are acting as a medium between publishers and readers. Newspapers of all the media and entertainment segments are struggling with the digital content as they compete directly with the volume of content that is available for free online and other sources.

Digital platforms are continuously deriving revenues from digital readers in the market. Digital revenues are forecasted to grow at a higher rate than the print revenue in the newspaper market. Digital advertising revenues from the advertisers are also projected to grow at a growth rate of over 5% in the market. The big giants, like Google and Facebook, are also disrupting the digital advertisement market by their services and are gaining a large market share.

Publishers are getting better insights from websites for their customers, distributors, and stakeholders. Publishers with the digital-first model are investing significantly in building in-house data and analytics capabilities to exploit the digital market.

Despite digital transformation, print revenues are accounting for revenues over 80% of the market, globally revenues from print fell by over 1% only. Publishers are embracing creativity, experimentation, and new initiatives in the market. Furthermore, emerging imperative, especially for newspaper publishers are to play up their long-standing association with high-quality information. It is also observed that trust in journalists and quality journalism is on the rise, particularly compared to online platforms.

However, in the present scenario, advertisers are placing advertisements on social media than digital newspapers which can restrain the growth of the market.

Today, the pressures that come with the move to digital are felt particularly keenly by English-language newspapers. But they are not alone. As KPMG notes:

“With the availability of affordable smartphones and data, the industry believes that Hindi and regional will begin the inevitable transition to digital soon.”

Therefore, it is important that Indian newspapers figure out their digital future now. Not just for their owners and employees, but for Indian society and for India’s democracy.