FOR several years now, the newspaper industry is still in denial that business is thriving. Most ardent supporters of the traditional medium are saying that print isn’t going anywhere. But is it? Numbers don’t lie. Declining newspaper readership has been the case since pre-pandemic. And the Covid-19 pandemic has sealed the fate of several newspapers (mostly community-based papers) that have helped provide information in small towns and cities that big broadcasters and media companies fail to reach.
In a report published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism with the support of the Google News Initiative entitled Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2020 authored by Newman et al., only 22 percent of Filipino respondents get their news from newspapers. And the readership numbers keep on declining year after year. The majority of respondents or 55 percent also said they ‘prefer to watch news online rather than read’ the newspaper.
The report in itself is a reminder to newspapers to head towards the digital road and transform their newspapers into a technology-driven medium using mobile-friendly and online means of delivering information. Or else, if they fail to go online, go to kaput and close shop.
While a majority of newspapers now have taken pride in having their own websites and social media presence, I often see them lacking in mobile friendliness. Most newspaper owners have been content with having a website version of their newspapers that they have forgotten that a traditional newspaper layout does not translate well online. Focus should be given more to multimedia visuals as opposed to traditional newspapers where the eye is only fixed on the text and a few graphics. While some newspapers have great content on their social media pages, these are not often maximized by having these news articles linked to their website content or vice-versa.
Newspapers should also, at least, know that only one in 10 online readers read the local news via a computer or laptop. A whopping majority of readers consume the news through their phones or tablets which is why the focus must be directed towards fitting content and visuals on an even smaller screen.
Another problem many newspapers are facing in their digital transformation is the lack of knowledge and training of many journalists in online writing. To compete, many newspaper journalists should be trained towards writing for online readers. While newspaper articles are limited by the available space and pages of their newspapers, online news writing allows more space for discussion.
Online versions of newspapers allow journalists to go for more words and heading towards explanatory writing as compared to print versions where articles are known for their brevity. In fact, any type of news article writing that is less than 300 words will automatically be flagged by any SEO software. Knowledge of basic Search Engine Optimized or keyword-rich writing, providing backlinks to internal and external sources and content, and the use of images and slideshows should also be the focus now to adapt to the shorter attention span of media consumers.
Meanwhile, newspaper circulation has drastically plunged in the past decade that even advertisers are placing their monies on digital media ahead of traditional media like print. To further illustrate, media invites from the usual advertisers are now directed towards digital content creators and social media influencers instead of the mainstream media like TV, radio, and print.
But despite the challenges ahead, newspapers have an advantage that no other medium like radio and television or these so-called ‘social media influencers’ can provide – keyword-rich, vetted, and quality content that Big Tech names like Google, Amazon, and Facebook are all eager to consume.
Content from established newspapers when carefully crafted and written is more effective in reaching different target audiences. As compared to the limited and often fleeting clout and popularity of content creators and self-proclaimed social media influencers, their lack of journalistic training and ethical responsibility are prone to be easily canceled by the emerging woke generation.
Last but not the least, to compete, newspapers have to heavily invest in Digital Marketing to ensure a steady revenue stream. In succeeding columns, I will carefully discuss different ways for newspapers to attract a bigger audience, improve revenue sources, and reach readers that have previously been limited by newspaper circulation.
Among these Digital Marketing topics that should be learned by community newspaper publishers, marketing staff, and newsroom journalists include Search Engine Optimization, Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing and Management, Pay-Per-Click Advertising and Affiliate Marketing, E-mail Marketing and Automation, and Online PR and Sponsored Content. We’ll continue discussing them in the next editions of the Freelancer column. Happy Weekend!