Recently I read that newspapers have been in circulation for more than 3 centuries. The newspaper has evolved over the years, undergoing several changes, be it quality, quantity, coverage, etc. The interesting question now is what’s next in store for the newspaper, especially in the dynamic environment we live in today. This post tries to assess what the newspaper needs to do to remain relevant in the coming times.
Life is not easy for the newspaper these days, isn’t it? Let’s see a few of the challenges it faces.
- The issue starts right at the time of delivery of the paper at the doorstep everyday. If the newspaper is not delivered at 7.30 am sharp, or whatever is the normal time of delivery, people start getting frustrated. These are the very set of people who frown when someone frowns at them for reporting late to office.. Newspapers these days are a full stack of paper sheets weighing almost half a kilo per household copy. Assembling the customizations for each household and delivering them on time is not a child’s play. And to top it, what’s the return? A newspaper delivery boy makes roughly around Rs. 500-1000 per month.. Now simple chores, involving lesser demanding working hours and physical energy might pay them more. Who and why will anyone then spend so much time and efforts for such average returns? They are likely to seek opportunities elsewhere causing potential shortage of resources in the delivery service. Any service, with a crippled supply chain will fall apart eventually. Newspapers aren’t and will not be an exception to this…
- OK, now the paper is finally delivered, and hopefully on time too. The first 2 pages are filled up with advertisements of real estate companies offering homes in locations so far off, that even wild carnivorous man eaters would fear to venture out there… The remaining pages are filled up with news of national importance…no wait, they are filled up with news of some murder in a family, whose tree is so complex that it will require complex algebraic functions and equations with many unknown variables to solve it !!!..The question then is what will you read? Worse, amidst this drams you may actually miss out on some news which actually makes some sense. How to get over this? Simple, just pick up the 3X6 inches digital box (or was it in your hands anyway) and start browsing on it.. What’s the need of the newspaper then?
- We don’t have the entire day to search for the meaningful news we are looking out for. The travel time of a daily office-goer has increased over the years, thanks to the pathetic quality of our roads, the massive number of people opting for their own cars for travel and insane rents in main cities forcing firms to setup offices in remote locations. So probably many of us need to leave for office earlier than we did a few years back. There is now hardly any time to read the newspaper , relaxing over a cup of chai (tea) like the good old days.. This shortens the relationship between the reader and the newspaper. This added with the 2 issues above are in no way making the life of newspaper easy..
Maybe a bit far fetched, but such issues will hinder the growth of the hard copy paper in the face of digital era and may actually force it to extinction in its current form as we know it. I am sure many of us, who have and will continue to love reading newspapers for its news, cartoon strips, puzzles wouldn’t want such a thing to happen. Then what is really required to save the newspaper? Here are some thoughts on the same.
Individual customizations of a newspaper are not feasible. 1 way to effectively achieve the same is to classify the readers in a few categories. Sample classification could be office goers, housewife, college people, senior citizens. Then divide each page into 4 sections with news most relevant to each of them. For instance, put share market news, firm expansion plans related news for the office goers. Perhaps, then don’t put any page 3 type news in their section across pages. Don’t bore the college guys with GDP, IIP, current account deficit and all. But do put news related to food chains, theme parks in their section. Some news..like cricket of course appeals to all.. put it in a common section for all. In national news pages, do put pay commission related news for senior citizens. Idea is that a person, with scarce time at his or her end is able to read through all the news which is likely to be most relevant to him or her. The same can be applied for advertisements also. With time permitting, the person can then browse through other sections as well at will. Yes, there are many ifs and buts, but I think idea is not too bad..
Each industry needs to make efforts to ensure it remains relevant in changing times. Newspaper also needs to survive amidst the tsunami of digital news. Sincere efforts by media houses to help people read what they want to without compromising on quality or effectiveness, would hopefully ensure that.