The print newspaper in the information age: An analysis of trends and perspectives

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  • As the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century sees yet another drop in print newspaper paid circulation and a sharp increase in newspaper operations closures in North America, the current financial crisis and the emergence and increasing popularity of the Internet are immediately pointed out as the main causes of the phenomenon. There’s also a perception of the decline in newspaper circulation as a global phenomenon, affecting the newspaper industries of countries all over the world in a similar way, regardless of local cultural and business characteristics. But these conclusions may be too casual. Here an examination how much of the print newspaper decline as a mass media is a consequence of competition from the Internet and exacerbated by hard economic times, and how the industry has been performing in the context of different national realities is proposed. A review of the evolution of the print newspaper since its introduction in the 17th century to the dramatic changes experienced through the whole 20th century indicate that these might be just recent developments in a decline that started since the monopoly of print newspapers in the transmission of news was first challenged by the emergence of radio broadcast. Cultural changes in the audiences of mass media, the emergence of television, technological disruptions and questionable business decisions have all played a part in weakening the position of the print newspaper as a mass medium. The role of the audiences’ needs and expectations in choosing or replacing media, as well as emerging new perspectives for the industry are also examined, revealing many factors that can weight into this phenomenon. A comparative statistical analysis of economic, technological and media trends for several countries in a representative period of the past decade is presented to provide a context in which several possible causal relationships are tested and analyzed. As new factors are brought to light, a better understanding of the newspaper recent trajectory as a local rather than global phenomenon is reached, with certain countries actually experiencing a renewed interest in the print newspaper reflected in increasing circulation numbers, and limited patterns of causality between national economic performance and Internet use established based on specific macroeconomic traits of the local national realities rather than shared cultural characteristics. These new perspectives then allow us to discuss and make projections of the future of this medium: new distribution and business models and emerging portable electronic technologies will all impact newspapers as they find its new place in the Information Age likely as a niche, a print “version” of a robust online news delivery system that will dominate the news media scene.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International