Tomorrow’s newspaper in New Jersey is a very different beast! With the increasing availability of instant news and information 24/7, the ‘news’ part of newspapers is rapidly morphing. If I want to know who did what when or what today’s big issue is, whether that be globally, nationally or locally, I have a seemingly unlimited choice of instant news services from which to choose. Even my old mobile phone grants me immediate internet access, meaning keeping up with the Jones’s has never been easier.
So why do we still have newspapers in New Jersey ? Everyone knows that circulation is plummeting, but a few of us die-hards believe there will always be print. Why? Because it is comfortable. The Y-Gens are still buying their magazines and books because they also enjoy that relaxing slump on the couch with a drink, snacks and an engaging read. The operative word here of course is engaging!
Tomorrow's newspaper is a very different beast! With the increasing availability of instant news and information 24/7, the 'news' part of newspapers is rapidly morphing. If I want to know who did what when or what today's big issue is, whether that be globally, nationally or locally, I have a seemingly unlimited choice of instant news services from which to choose. Even my old mobile phone grants me immediate internet access, meaning keeping up with the Jones's has never been easier.
So why do we still have newspapers? Everyone knows that circulation is plummeting, but a few of us die-hards believe there will always be print. Why? Because it is comfortable. The Y-Gens are still buying their magazines and books because they also enjoy that relaxing slump on the couch with a drink, snacks and an engaging read. The operative word here of course is engaging!
Newspaper magnates are scrambling madly like a flock of geese in hunting season, desperately seeking new ideas from pricy consultants to engage their disparate audiences as subscription and print-ad revenues nose dive. The really big end of town is buckling under its own ancient weight, stunned in the headlights of a much faster moving information superhighway. The choice is change or die.
But change for these guys is tough. They are often fourth or fifth generation family moguls who know little else beyond the print world. "Ok, we've built our website...now what?" The smart players are restructuring their offices in information-centric floor plans where a byte of news travels simultaneously to each media team where it is chopped, shaved, spiced and uploaded to the net, print production, radio, TV, mobile etc. The not-so-smart are sacking staff and closing shop, or even worse shaking their heads, holding their nose, closing their eyes and hoping the naughty internet thingy will just go away.
So the stage is set for a media revolution, where only the smart and nimble will triumph. Such a scenario has opened the door for the smaller players, who were previously excluded from the game owing to costly entrance fees and ruthless incumbents. Now however, powerful publishing software is extremely affordable, putting everything up for grabs. The little guys are redefining an archaic industry.
Over the past five years thousands of localised 'news' websites have sprouted around the world. Some with significant venture capital funding, some dabbling off-shoots of the big companies, others simply built by community minded individuals. The spin on these sites tends to be user-generated content, or 'citizen journalism', whereby locals tell their own stories, report on events that might otherwise be overlooked by mainstream media, or simply weigh in with an opinion or rebuff.
In 2004 'The Word' newspaper was launched in Canberra, Australia. At the time this was the first tabloid in the world to be written entirely by its readers, circulating 35000 gloss covered copies monthly to 900 sites across Australia's capital city. The beauty about this model was not only that content was free, but that it evoked immediate loyalty. Anyone who got an article published in print, or knew someone else who got published, inevitably showed friends.
But could we really call this a newspaper? Was it more like a magazine? A newszine? A yarnpaper? A plog (printed blog)? Whatever it was, it carried $30,000 of advertising in every issue and another $1000 p/m of online ads! It engaged its readers. As the adage proclaims, get your content and distribution right and the advertisers will follow.
So we come back to content, the 'news' in newspapers. With the eruption of online commerce we are witnessing a turning point for content. Earning money online is all about 'eyeballs' - getting traffic to your site. Unfortunately the very same freedoms we cherish about the internet also drown us in spam and crap content. Waving a flag above the dumping grounds of useless and tedious content is becoming quite an art, a trade to which professional and novice authors are gravitating in droves.
Content will soon be entirely free! Already the industry is filling with content conduits, like Ezine Articles, Squidoo, Wordpress, Twitter and plenty more. Authors upload their articles, as I will do with this article, to these newly forming content kings. These kings then push the content to relevant members who have flagged certain interests in membership profiles. These members then publish that content into their own websites or publications.
But where is the money in all this? Well the conduits charge for premium privileges for both authors and publishers and the authors charge for...hmmm...that's right, nothing! And that is why this is so beautiful - there really is something in it for the author - reputation. Prolific and intelligent authors can now get their message out there faster than ever and gain hundreds of thousands of readers overnight, which translates to hundreds of thousands of eyeballs back at the author's website wanting more. Another name for this phenomenon is 'content marketing', whereby the author creates positive, informed conversations around products or services.
Pulling together these clues, tomorrow's newspaper is looking more like a hybrid of blogs, magazines, newspapers, forums and books. It is a disposable, stylish freebie, with likely a gloss cover and smaller than a tabloid so that it can be folded into the back pocket. It survives entirely on advertising and addresses in one sweep a bunch of interest sets that are beyond news. The stories are the neighborly conversations over the back fence. Opinions are rife from front cover to the last page. Articles inform the evermore discerning readers of the pros and cons of a wide range of products and services, toward generating trust first, not the sale. If you want the latest news, open your iPhone. If you want a bunch of stories, pictures and meanderings, pick up your local musepaper!
The invention of printing is an epoch making achievement in the history of human civilization. The modern age owes three fourths of its progress to printing. It has brought many blessings in its train and one of these is the newspaper which has deeply and widely influenced modern life in many ways.
A newspaper at first was nothing more than a paper which gave news. In its infancy, it had no other aim. But as it developed, it began to be used for various other purposes and served several ends. Today, it has become a tremendous force for good and evil in the world. It not only continues, as before, to give news but also comments on them, criticizes the people and the government, deals with social, political, industrial and religious questions, reviews books and periodicals, ventilates grievances and does many other things, In fact there is hardly any public activity of man which does not come within the purview of the modern newspaper. The press, of course, has now become an organ of public opinion.
But unfortunately, sometimes the press is stifled. It is prevented from carrying out its legitimate work either by the unfitness of those who manage it or by the unnecessary interference of the powers that be. It is sometimes seen that passion and not reason guides its action. A wrong cause is championed, truth is suppressed and morbid tastes are pandered by it. Dangerous as these evils are, a greater danger comes from the attempt of some irresponsible government to gag or subsidies newspapers. Often, without sufficient cause, newspapers are gagged simply because they had the guts of criticizing plainly the unjust action of government.
But when it runs or is allowed to run in a normal and rational course, a newspaper is a great public educator. More than what can be done in schools and colleges is done by it. It supplies necessary information on the burning topics of the day, tackles the principal social and political problem of a country, criticizes books and brings to light the epoch making discoveries and inventions. It benefits every class of people. But it is not only a public educator and fearless critic of a government, it is also a great social reformer. It is in the columns of the newspapers that social abuse, are ruthlessly exposed and criticized and attention of the public is drawn to the inherent evils of some customs and practices.
The press is also an effective check on the vagaries of men in power. So it is a great mentor and stands against the misuse of power and the miscarriage of justice. It brings all the questions of the day before the bar of public opinion to be approved or condemned by it, in this way it serves the nation. The press is also a very great force in the field of politics. It teaches citizens their rights and responsibilities and make them fit for citizenship. It educates public opinion and teaches people how to vote, what taxes to pay and for what purposes, it explains the significance' of the municipal laws and bylaws comments on the proceeding of the legislative council and other public' bodies and helps men to develop their civic sense.
The press is a public organ, the voice of the people and therefore the freedom of the press means the freedom of the people. In a country where there is no free press the people may be independent, but they are not free in the true sense of the word. The press in self defense, if not for any higher motive has ever the champion of political freedom. Whenever a newspaper lights for the freedom of the press, it indirectly fights for the freedom of the people. The test of a country's freedom is determined by the amount of freedom its press enjoys. To stifle the press is to stifle the nation. Milton said "as good almost kill a man as kill a good book", and the remark is also applicable to the newspapers.
Newspapers also wield a tremendous influence to break down barriers between nations and help in forming themselves into a great brotherhood of nations. It knits up the different parts of a vast continent and teaches them to feel for one another. But it not only fosters international feelings, it teaches us to embrace the whole world as out kith and kin. A sense of fraternity is fostered by the spread of knowledge through the columns of the newspaper.
As a cheap and public educator, holding up the torch in the midst of darkness, as a trenchant and impartial critic of public administration of law and justice, as a social reformer patiently reforming the abuses of a society, as the champion of freedom in a country, as the destroyer of the barriers which separate man from man, nations from nations, and lastly as a pointer to the prospect of universal liberty, equality and fraternity, the newspaper in modern times has come to exercise a tremendous influence on the public and private life of man. There is no end to its potentiality for good if it can steer clear of greed, partiality, meanness and arrogance.
That is why, it is appropriately called the 'Forth Estate'.
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