There are no shortages of reports predicting the end of the printed newspaper. And the doom and gloom has been widespread for nearly a decade. So why are the staff writers at The Economist feeling so optimistic about the future of the newspaper?
Granted, much of the positive energy about the newspaper industry centers on Europe and Japan. In these regions, readership is falling but not as drastically as one might expect. While the recession had an impact on profitability overseas, newspaper publishers do not yet have to compete heavily with online aggregators. And in South America, for example, the tabloid format is finding a growing readership.
But there’s no denying that both advertising and readership in the U.S. has dropped significantly in the past couple of years. These changes have forced publishers to cut payroll costs. At the same time, companies have countered expensive paper and printing costs by reducing the size of their publications and using lower-quality paper. Yet, there's still the issue of content. The fastest route to restored profitability will be to give “readers what they want to read, as opposed to what lofty notions of civic responsibility suggest they ought to read,” say The Economist writers. For now, companies are emphasizing local news and sports coverage instead of trying to compete with their own versions of national stories.
Analysts at The Economist don’t deny that it will be tough to get younger readers to pick up a traditional paper in any form. However, newspaper companies have proven themselves able to quickly adapt. “Metropolitan newspapers are turning into city newspapers.” In addition, the small local papers are doing well across the U.S. For many local advertisers, these newspapers are still an effective way to reach consumers with money to spend.[Source: The strange survival of ink. The Economist. 10 Jun. 2010. Web. 21 Jun. 2010]