Lately it seems that news about the state of print journalism is popping up on all of the major search marketing websites with a great degree of regularity. Over the last several years the two businesses have been inextricably linked, as one continues to grow and the other continues to suffer.
I should confess that I am but a recent entrant to the search marketing game. I actually came from a journalism background, having completed a four-year degree in that field about four years ago. Having the chance to see both businesses operating from the inside during this time of unpredictability and nearly constant change has been nothing short of fascinating.
Many are claiming that print journalism is on its deathbed, that it will cease to exist in the not-too-distant future. Some have already shut down altogether, while many have had to make cutbacks in employee compensation or delivery dates. Papers as large as the Chicago Sun-Times, the Boston Globe, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune haven’t been immune to this downturn. I even heard a rumor that my own Kalamazoo Gazette, the paper I used to write three to four stories a week for just as a freelance writer during my college days at Western Michigan University, has cut back to delivering just three days a week (thanks to Deb, I know that this one isn’t true).
While there likely is no miracle solution to saving the print journalism industry entirely, many are calling on them to integrate their content online. While this seems to be the natural progression of things these days, the Associated Press hasn’t helped the cause with several well publicized blunders. Unfortunately, some problems may exist with an online-only model, as Mike Sachoff of Web Pro News points out. It’s certainly a complex issue.
Changing newspapers to an online model may not only affect the way people read the news, but also the way it is written. In this on-the-go world, many don’t sit down to read news on the internet the same way people used to (and in some cases still do) leisurely sit down on a Sunday afternoon and peruse the local paper. Journalists used to have space (actually measured in inches, not just number of words) to tell a story. They used the Inverted Pyramid to give the most important information first, and then get to the less important details at the bottom of the page, just in case space requirements necessitated some of the article being cut. That way, an editor could just chop paragraphs off the bottom without losing the heart of the story.
However, in the online media world &mdash where bloggers are gaining popularity by the day and Facebook status updates and Twitter Tweets are becoming the norm &mdash it’s like a Hyper Inverted Pyramid. People seem mostly interested in quick sound-bite type information, and newspapers just aren’t structured to provide that. Online outlets can update a seemingly infinite number of times in a day, with the ability to edit or adjust based on new information. Once a newspaper is printed, it is printed, barring a dramatic “stop the presses!”
If we lose newspapers entirely, we will be losing an institution that has existed since Ancient Rome, when Julius Caesar posted government announcement bulletins that were carved on stone or metal in public places. Is the internet becoming the new town square, the new daily newspaper, where people can get all the news they need? What would Julius Caesar think?
What do you think?