Is there a future for newspapers?

Is there a future for newspapers?






Wanda Lloyd, speaking at Leadership Montgomery’s
Lunch with Leaders series, First United Methodist Church

I was honored to be the speaker for the March 13 Leadership Montgomery Lunch with Leaders series. The most common question was “Will there always be a newspaper?” My response later.

My presentation, “The Evolution of News,” included a look back at newspapers over the past decade or so — since I have been in Montgomery as executive editor of the Montgomery Advertiser, the current state of newspapers and the future of news. Here are some highlights:

PAST

  • A minority of people in the Central Alabama market had access to computers in their homes.
  • In 2004 when I arrived in Montgomery, we were primarily a print product. Our online staff members didn’t even show up for work until about 10 p.m. or later to post stories that would appear in the next day’s newspaper. We hardly ever updated the site during the day.
  • We determined that as the
    capital city newspaper, we had to own state government coverage and we
    committed resources in that area.
  • With added resources, we
    recommitted to watchdog journalism and a strong state government team in this capital city.
  • Newspapers tried to be all things to all people — all the national and international news, full stock reports, full TV listings seven days a week, daily staff editorials and multiple letters to the editor, complete national sports stats.
  • One of our most important target reader groups was women, especially moms with children still living at home.


PRESENT

  • Demographics have
    changed in the market. The percentage of people who have computer access has
    greatly increased.
  • The Web is a 24/7 business and requires staffing to meet the information demands.
  • We know that our
    print readers are primarily older, at least 50 and up for the most part. And
    even people in their 50s and older access us digitally as well.
  • Most people don’t wait for the newspaper to track stocks, weather, sports stats
  • News is carried
    via social media – including text messaging and the newspaper’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, which
    push people to the Advertiser’s stories online.
  • Print readers have full access to digital products and the electronic edition of the print newspaper
  • Newspapers have invested in technology for reporters and photographers and related training, especially for video production.

  • FUTURE

  • First, some things won’t change. Traditional values of accuracy, good writing, ethics will continue to be the foundation of credible journalism.
  • Consumers need to understand the difference between authoritative journalism and stream-of-conscience blogging (not this blog, of course).
  • News organizations are hiring people with the capacity for innovative thinking.
  • There may be more free-distribution models.
  • We will probably see more consolidation of functions, such as  off-site design and printing, and more compact sized newspapers.
  • News websites may allow users to order up the kind of information they want and design the pages based on personal interests.
  • News staffs may get smaller and may be restructured to deliver news for the 2st century.
  • Newspapers will be more engaging with their local audiences, such as blogging, community writers, local commentary voices and writing.

Now, for that important question: “Will there always be a newspaper?”

My response is yes, at least for the generation of adults now at least 50 years and older for the rest of our lives. However, if I had a to make a decision about whether small and medium-sized communities will have a newspaper seven days a week, I would suggest dropping the Monday print edition pretty soon. In many location, Monday’s is the smallest newspaper of the week with the least amount of resources. The exception would be in communities with pro sports teams that play on Sunday. The Times-Picayune in New Orleans is doing that already.

What do you think is the future of newspapers and delivery of news products? Please join the conversation with a comment below.

(Thanks to Stacia Robinson for the quick snapshot of me above.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s