Saturday, 13 February 2016

The implications of a trend towards digital-only newspapers

Yesterday, The Independent and The Independent on Sunday, newspapers which I have been reading very frequently for years both online and offline, have announced they will cease all printing and become digital-only newspapers from late March 2016, almost 10 years to the day I first read The Independent cover to cover.

This will in all likelihood be just the start of a trend where eventually, all major newspapers in the UK (and in some other countries) will become entirely online publications.

What will all this mean?

1. It will cost less for us to view major newspapers, or rather 'news-sites'.

Most major UK newspapers, with The Times and The Financial Times being notable exceptions, can currently be read online for no cost at all, but if you want to buy them on a frequent enough basis, it will cost you hundreds of pounds each year. For example, if I bought The Independent 310 times per year, enough to cover every weekday of news and every weekend's worth of news it will publish, it would cost me a total of £454 per year. Even the cheaper national newspapers would set each daily buyer back around £200 per year at least, at a time when many of us are still feeling the effects of the Great Recession and suffering such things as pay freezes and above-inflation living costs.

2. Environmental costs of media publications will also decrease overall.

Tens of thousands of trees have to be cut down for the annual print of each major UK newspaper alone, since not all the paper they use is recycled. Although the energy usage of electronic devices capable of accessing the Internet is well-documented as are the environmental consequences of electronic wastage, a change of culture from where such items as iPads, iPhones, and laptops are treated as disposable fashion accessories rather than the vital modern tools they actually are will help cut environmental costs considerably in that regard. After all, a newspaper is just that-a newspaper; whereas iPads, Tablets, iPhones and laptops can continue to be used for accessing the non-news parts of the world wide web, and on a side note catch up to breaking news as quickly as it happens in a way that daily newspapers simply cannot.

3. Publications will also be more financially viable.

Printing presses are expensive to buy and maintain, hence why most newer media publications of varying views and interests are digital for the most part. This money could be freed up and used to cover the actual gathering and reporting of news and/or gossip.

4. There will greater pressure on media and the readers to keep up.

If a majority of newspapers, local as well as national, end up becoming digital-only in the same way The Independent is about to, the market pressure on them could increase exponentially which will put increasing pressure on smaller and more localised news outlets. After all, any non-public enterprise (private or cooperative) is ultimately more likely to fail than to succeed in the end and news publications are no exception to this unwritten iron law. There will also be more pressure on readers to keep up to date with the latest technology which in some cases is advancing faster than most humans can keep up on a regular basis.

All of this is worth noting, since potentially within the next few decades, printed newspapers of all kinds could be a thing of the past and online media will become the norm for the vast majority of newsreaders.


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