As an aspiring journalist, the potential death of print media presents a major problem: bad reporting and fake news. Before I explain the correlation, we need to understand why print media is becoming less popular.
There are two factors contributing to the decline of print media: lack of accessibility and diminishing ad revenue.
For the first time, Vividata collected data for a full-year for 117 Canadian newspapers and magazines. They conducted surveys on 38,000 Canadians and concluded that “While newspapers and magazines reach 90% of Canadians on a weekly basis, Vividata says that more than half of Canadians (59%) are now reading on a digital device. The study also found that 70% of all digital readership is being done on a mobile device.” This shows a clear transition from print to digital media. I believe this transition has to do with accessibility.
Accessibility is important in our modern lifestyle, and newspapers are just not accessible enough. They’re messy, and hard to find at times. If you don’t have a delivery subscription, you have to find a newspaper vending machine. Why go to all this trouble when you can just swipe your phone and see breaking news instantly?
The second factor contributing to print media decline, as highlighted above, is diminishing ad revenue. The subsequent chart is based on data collected from the Newspaper Association of America. The chart clearly shows the rapid decline in print ad revenue within the past few years. However, the chart shows a decline in digital media ad revenue as well.
Although both ad revenues are declining, there is a difference in how digital media produces ad revenue compared to traditional print media. In earlier years, corporations and businesses would pay ads to newspapers with the most subscribers. These newspapers built a viewership over years of credible and consistent news reporting.
Today, many online news articles are click-bait. The article title attempts to attract attention and encourage viewers to click on it. The more clicks, the more ad revenue that comes in. So, how do articles attract this needed attention? This is where the problem lies. Due to the click-bait process, news organizations may present popular stories that have unverified facts and gossip to increase clicks. Thus, journalistic ethics are compromised, and we see the influx of fake stories being reported on.
News organizations are transitioning to chiefly digital media organizations, which is great. The accessibility of digital media is unparalleled. However, with diminishing ad revenue, my fear is that credible news sources are becoming gossip sites where clicks and likes have become more important than truth and facts.