Newspapers: on the verge of extinction?

I recently heard The Guardian News & Media’s Managing Director Tim Brooks claim he was in a very scary place:

“Digital media are wreaking extraordinary havoc on traditional media… to be in old media space is a very scary place indeed, because the business models are being smashed by new media.”

Coming from The Guardian, who have been relatively proactive about digital media compared with their broadsheet counterparts, this is a bold statement to make. I don’t think that Mr Brooks’ comments mean that he is scared – he simply said it’s a scary place. The important point in his statement is that the business models are changing.

Media moves on

As communications technology and social trends develop, Media will continue to change. Traditionally, ‘old media’ was confined to limited interaction. Radio and television stations attempted interaction through telephone ‘call-ins’; newspapers interacted through letters to the editor.

Traditional newspapers need to move on, embracing the opportunities of digital media for more effective interaction, and even changing their business models to take advantages of new opportunities. We see this just starting to happen for newspapers: most newspapers publish free news online and allow readers to comment. Yet in terms of interaction this kind of thing is at least ten years out of date.

In what seemed like a promising step forwards, The Guardian recently announced that it was going to run a live chat with David Cameron. Sadly this turned out to be a disappointing ‘over-promise’. The ‘live’ chat was simply a traditional question and answer session, with no live interaction. The embarrassing effect of this on both the shadow prime minister and the Guardian is discussed in .

New business models

Examples abound of how business models for newspapers are changing. Do you remember the days before ebay, when people used newspapers for classified ads? Or when we paid to read the news – today even newspapers provide news free to our desktops and mobile phones.

Last December the Sun led the way for UK newspapers as they trialled ‘QR codes’ – a code you can scan on your mobile phone to quickly access web content. Encouraging mobile users to read free content online is another sign that things are changing.

The end?

So, will we see the end of the traditional newspaper? Not yet, but there are great untapped opportunities for those who understand the new rules of engagement in the digital media world.

If you would like to find out more about how we could bring our experience of digital media to national or regional newspapers, .

Daniel Ghinn

Daniel Ghinn is Editor of Healthcare Engagement Strategy and CEO of Creation Healthcare, the online market research consultancy for healthcare. He is a prolific writer and speaker on emerging trends healthcare engagement in the digital age.