Future of Newspapers


History of Electronic media

Civic Journalism

Customization of News

Future of Newspaper

Links to other journalism sites

December 16, 1996


A 1996 survey of American newspaper executives sponsored by Hearst Newspapers found that 45 percent of America's publishers, editors and advertising directors felt their print publications would be harmed by Internet-based competition. More than 30 percent of those polled felt the Internet was the "top reason" print newspaper companies will be less healthy in the future.

Meanwhile, the study also reports that 44 percent of the executives felt that the new sorts of interactive publishing made possible by the World Wide Web would help their companies be more profitable. But only 10 percent out of the total 43 percent companies which have their digital presence said these electronic operations were profitable currently.

The proliferation of cyber news indicates the importance of Internet presence among the mindset of news organizations. Eric Meyer, managing partner of AJR's NewsLink Associates, estimates that worldwide there are about 1,600 newspapers online today, with about 50 new ones coming online each month. Meyer also said there are about 4,500 digital magazine Web sites.

Thus far in the fledgling digital publishing, most publishers are sticking with their Web ventures despite the lack of profitability in the industry as a whole. Meyer predicted that some publication Web sites may terminate to exist in 1997 as budgets are tight without any visible profits. It may also the result of a "pack" mentality with news sites copying each others' innovations without really devoting to the market needs.


Referring to the notion of civic journalism, electronic news must attend to the needs of the audiences, no matter how diverse they are, in order to survive in the competitive media industry.

Just as any other companies, news organizations are also economic institutions that should generate revenue so as to position themselves in the digital age. Steve Outing concluded 11 key lessons that newspapers are learning about cyberspace publishing to:
provide Information should be free;
offer subscription-fee based email editions to foreign readers;
tap in revenue through advertising and multiple services, such as being an Internet service provider, charging a subscription fee, charging for premium services, building Web sites for other companies, providing consulting services to other publishers, charging extra for online classifieds, etc.;
hire dedicated and sales staff;
offer advertisers optional services depending on their needs;
place advertisers on multiple sites;
ally with other companies as partners to get noticed, like large joint ventures of MSNBC and Boston Globe that brings all competing New England media together under one roof;
give chance to young people with initiatives to make their efforts;
not rely on shovelware that simply porting newspaper's content online is not enough, but attend to readers' needs;
facilitate interactive discussion with among readers, journalists and publishers; and
stay up to date, be prepared and be ready to change.

However, NewLink's Meyer warned that massive investment in staffing still are unjustified. "There is very little evidence that anything else can become economically viable, particularly in a medium with a total market share that well below double digits and shows almost no potential to rise much beyond smaller levels than are enjoyed with print," Meyer wrote in an e-mail reply.

Meyer further explained that the Web does not replace print. "Most newspapers on the Web are not general news purveyors but rather serve a niche, albeit a geographical one," he said. "Local news is the franchise in that market." Therfore, a better role might be to develop a niche that is not geographically defined -- a site focusing on worldwide coverage of a topic of extreme local interest. "Geographically unfettered, local newspapers can compete globally for readers in such area," Meyer said.

What the future holds?

Multiple news services

As society has developed into such a big and complex community that people are not able to communicate face to face or get information through personal experience, mass media, especially print medium, becomes indispensable in daily life. Content becomes the commodity that can be bought, sold and traded along the information superhighway. News organizations have a potential to make profit as they have been dominant information providers.

However, facing greater competition, a variety of information and a diverse way of distributing information are necessary for newspapers to locate themselves in the digital market. For instance, newspapers enable the ability to retrieve by offering achived information into searchable, marketable, digital form. Also, other services may help newspapers earn a living on the Web so as to finance their content for better journalism. Meyer said, small town newspapers in the 2,000-3,000 circulation range "in the middle of nowhere" are setting themselves up as Internet access providers for their tiny communities, along with the mission of bringing the Internet to the communities.

The new journalist

Upholding the notion of civic journalism, interactive communications with readers and virtual contact with the community is vital for newspapers to provide information that not only demonstrate the problems people may concern, but also possible solutions people consider. Journalists act as real human beings that live with the readers and the community they serve as well as communicators providing objective information based on evidence about the possible positive and negative outcomes of each solution.

Therefore, technology enables journalists break the wall and bring back readers who are aware of public affairs and would like to talk about them through interactive digital devices.

Journalists are required to pursue multiple technological and communication skills. Ruth Gersh, the Associated Press editor, said she needs people with a blend of traditional and futuristic skills, who can work imaginatively with the rich swirl of text, photos, graphics, audio and video that multimedia embodies.

Mary Kay Blake, Gannett's director of recruiting and placement, said the idea isn't to identify computer skills per se, but to recognize that computer-literate people often "show clear thinking, strong analytical skills and connective abilities."

Future Journalism

Some cyber journalists may adopt different journalistic format in new media. Media Critic Jon Katz said stories on the Web tend to be heavy on opinion and angle, zipper, looser in language, yet tighter in length than in a newspaper or magazine. Despite changes in the media industry, most journalists agree that journalistic values still hold the future newspapers. David Lawrence Jr., publisher and chairman of the Miami Herald, said newspapers means solid reporting, meaningful investigations, local profiles and provocative columns. He emphasized that real excellence in newspapering means depth, perspective, personality, style, fairness, truth and compassion. He suggested that newspapers can better serve the community by pursuing investigative reporting, presenting information relevant to the readers, bringing people' ideas in the paper, as well as being responsive to the readers' needs.

In other words, civic journalism guides the practice of future newspapers and, most importantly, retains the credibility and journalistic values of news media.

The End

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Reader Preference
A survey on reader preference using Knight-Ridder's Mercury Center as an example, Jennifer Mueller and David Kamerer reported 14 types of information were preferred by the majority of respondents via electronic newspapers:

  • breaking news, 71 percent;
  • world news, 69 percent;
  • news summaries, 68 percent;
  • graphics, 67 percent;
  • national news, 66 percent;
  • entertainment news, 66 percent;
  • arts, 64 percent;
  • weather, 63 percent;
  • stock market information, 62 percent;
  • business news, 58 percent;
  • feedback to the editors and writers, 57 percent;
  • food-related stories, 56 percent;
  • horoscopes, 54 percent; and
  • sports, 52 percent.

    Personal Collection
    Links to other journalism-related sites

  • Notes

  • Cited in Hoag Levins. (1996). "Online Gloom in Newspaper Offices: Publishers' Single Biggest Concern: The Internet" Editor & Publisher Interactive News

  • Cited in Steve Outing. (Nov.6, 1996). "U.S. News Media Continue March onto Web" Editor & Publisher Interactive News

  • Outing, Steve (March 26, 1996). "Newspapers on the Internet: Lessons they are Learning" Editor & Publisher Interactive News

  • Cited in Carl Sessions Stepp. (April 1996). "The New Journalist" American Journalism Review. p.19-23.

  • Cited in Carol Pogash. (June 1996). "Cyberspace Journalism" American Journalism Review. p.27-31.

  • Lawrence, David, Jr. (Spring 1993). "Why future is promising for newspaper industry?" Newspaper Research Journal. Vol.14. No.2. p.11-22.

  • Mueller, Jennifer & Kamerer, David. (Summer, 1995). "Reader preference for electronic newspapers" Newspaper Research Journal Vol.16. No.3. p.2-13.

    Go to:

    History of Electronic Media
    The Notion of Civic Journalism
    Customization of News
    Links to other journalism sites

    This paper is prepared by Shirley Yam.
    Yam is a graduate student in
    College of Journalism and Communications
    at University of Florida.