Opinion Columns & Blogs

Newspapers aren’t dead, at least not yet

Like my fellow newsies, I get asked fairly frequently what the future of newspapers will be. Heck, if I knew, I’d be operating a lucrative navel-gazing business. But here’s a gut hunch: Printed papers will be around for a while. Pretty bold, huh?

There’s no question the Internet has been a game changer, not just in the newsgathering and dissemination biz, but across the board as more and more people amuse themselves silly with the latest electronic gizmo that’s capable of downloading just about anything from anywhere in the world.

And there’s no question, the effort that goes into a daily paper is massive. Who in their right mind would use the following as a business model for distributing news: Let’s plant a forest, cut it down, pulp it into paper at a mill, invest millions in a printing plant, spray ink on the paper, run the product around in trucks that then drop off the paper for delivery by a corps of drivers who plunk it down into individual driveways and yards?

The grail of every publisher is to find the most eyeballs for their product at the least cost. So, obviously, when you can move news around using ions as your delivery system — with none of the above associated costs — we’re talking real cha-ching.

That said, here’s why I think the newspaper will remain good to go for the foreseeable future: Demographics. We still have at least three generations of people who love to hold a newspaper as their source of information.

According to studies by various foundations, about three-quarters of The Greatest Generation, a term coined by journalist Tom Brokaw to describe the generation who grew in the Great Depression then fought in World War II, still read a daily paper. It’s ingrained in their daily routine as they start their day with a cup of coffee and the news. A slight percentage of those folks now seek their news on the Internet, but their loyalty to print remains strong. So strong, in fact, that I’ve had older readers virtually grab me by the scruff and frantically make the case for their daily paper fix.

Their children, my generation, has about a 60 percent daily readership rate. The generation behind us reads a daily at about a 40 percent clip. The generation (I think it’s Generation Y) that follows is stone cold to the printed word — whether that word is found in a paper or a book or magazine.

There are those who are just squirming for the demise of the Mainstream (or Lamestream, if you’re Sarah Palin) Media to implode. “We’ll just get all of our news on the Net.” The questions then arise: Who will write it? Who will vet what gets put on the Net? Who will edit it?

True, there are indeed netpapers and zines that have hired staffs of writers and editors. But for the most part, Internet news outlets are aggregations of other sources of news, and those sources are newspapers.

So I think papers will be around for a while. But then again, if I were any good at this oracle stuff, I’d be spending more time in Vegas or perusing the stock market.

Reach Bill Morem at bmorem@thetribunenews.com or 781-7852.