It is an open secret that newspapers are in dilemma in this digital age. Readership has declined and so has circulation. If the global scenario is to be observed, it is seen that hundreds of newspapers have closed down and many have gone bankrupt due to numerous ominous circumstances like deficiency of readership, lack of good journalists and staff, poor revenue generation etc. More and more newspapers are switching to digital versions which seem to be the new apple pie for the young generation today.
Many reasons can be cited for this switching over by the print media. The young generation is energetic and competitive, but wants a fast and easy way to everything. The internet has been a very successful caterer in this regard. There is a vast difference between the news published in print media and digital media- internet, to be more specific. A certain news article is printed in the newspaper once for a day and after that no changes can be made to the news once printed. If any change has to be made, either the article will have to be reprinted, cancelling the already printed papers or the new article has to be kept aside to be printed on the next day. However, this comes as a relief in case of digital media, where a news article can be updated and republished within minutes. Also, the newspapers provide news for the entire day in one single edition for the whole day, but the digital versions provide news more frequently. News websites are updated very frequently and viewers get to know a story as it unfolds in real time. Also, publishing online requires no ink and paper which looks like an environment friendly way out with the increasing number of smartphones, tablets and laptops.
The above mentioned pros are in favour of digital media, but printed media also has its own set of pros which tend to be overlooked or unnoticed by the present generation. The feel of holding up a newspaper, reading the bold headlines and articles, and leafing through the pages is exceptionally idyllic. Also one gets a crystalline insight of the current events in the sections like “Letters to the editor” of the editorial page, where one gets to read the coalescence of other reader’s opinions as well as the editor’s opinion. This void can be appositely felt in web versions of newspapers where every piece of writing has to be individually clicked and read as a single piece of writing on the screen, rather like a honeycomb of writings visible to the reader of a printed newspaper. Also, printed newspaper articles can be cut and stored and referring to the previously cut and stored newspaper clippings for reference is a thing of joy which cannot be provided by ‘bookmarks’ feature of digital media.
The quality of content material is also another point to be noted while comparing newspapers and e-papers (internet’s electronic versions of newspapers) or news websites. The printed newspapers assign experienced and reputed journalists with ample knowledge on specific subjects and areas to generate their content which are then printed on the papers. However, news websites, if not of a reputed newspaper, may hire and assign any dilettante ‘freelance news journalist and reporter’ or frivolous internet blogger who may be very new to the world of journalism with no crumb of experience or with a very little of it. Most of the content these novice news journalists and bloggers generate online has a handful of incorrect spellings, grammatical gaffes and factual indiscretion which depreciate the quality of both language and journalism. A reader who wants to build up his vocabulary and his command over a language definitely cannot rely on these news websites which provide a very contrasting image when compared to the classic newspapers.
There also exist some other inevitable reasons for which the young generation has started to prefer digital newspapers to printed newspapers. In fact, some printed newspapers can also be solely blamed for this pathetic condition of theirs. I have seen national newspapers whose first page starts with a full-page advertisement. Sometimes, these ‘full length ad pages’ continue to the second, fourth, sixth and seventh pages too, leaving only the third, fifth, eight and other pages of a 10-12 page newspaper for reading purpose. Now who would like to buy and read a newspaper which has 30-40% of its content as full page advertisements, excluding the other half-paged advertisements and ad snippets? This point can be debated upon by stating that advertisements need to be printed to compensate for the decreasing amount of readership and generate ad revenue, but shouldn’t there a limited ad to news ratio?
Keeping the pros and cons apart, it is seen that people who are serious about news and information with additional instincts like affinity to good and proper language are generally the readers of the printed newspaper. This, however, does not mean that such people do not prefer news websites, blogs and e-papers and vice versa. But the quantity of such serious people, unfortunately, is very few, which is reflected in the low readership count of printed newspapers. The pandemic caused by declining readership has come as a serious threat to the newspaper industry as well as the readers who prefer printed newspapers to the digital news websites. Declining readership has led to various other factors like depreciation of circulation which has, in turn, led to lower popularity of newspapers and lower number of able staff in newspaper offices, which can be collectively accounted for the slow death of the printed newspapers.
Now it depends on the readers whether they want to actually hold up and read a printed newspaper and get the idyllic feeling or they want quick and brief news on their screens. Newspapers also need to keep an eye on what they print for it is only the readers who can save the dying newspaper industry. Otherwise, a day will come when printed newspapers will become just an antique or relic for collectors and we may need to say-
“Once there existed a thing called newspaper…”
© Barnadhya Rwitam Sharma