Home Research PapersIn Simon Jenkins, former editor of The Times famously

In Simon Jenkins, former editor of The Times famously


In 2011, Alan Rusbridger said the traditional
newspaper had no future, and even his own paper, The Guardian, would cease to
exist in five years as a printed newspaper, why did he say this? Why was he
wrong? Will he be proved right in the end?


            When Alan Rusbridger said the
traditional newspaper had no future in 2011, he was referring to the sharp
decline of printed newspaper circulation in the UK, ensuring that even The Guardian
would cease to exist by 2016. Although The Guardian still exists as a printed
copy, Rusbridger wasn’t wrong about the decline of print – lots of newspaper
outlets have made the decision to either scrap the printed copy altogether,
rework their paper for practical reasons, or moving the focus of their Journalism
to an online platform. The speculation that print publications would be in
decline is not a new theory, and sales have seen a recession ever since alternative
platforms of presenting news were invented.

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When it
comes to reasons for the decline of print circulation, the advent of the
internet was one of the most prominent factors. Simon Jenkins, former editor of
The Times famously said in 1997 that “The internet will strut its hour upon the
stage and then take its place in the ranks of lesser media.” From the 1990s
onwards in particular, the rise of the internet would change the ways that all businesses
in general, including newspaper outlets, would have to present their business model,
incorporating younger audiences and presenting news in more creative ways previously
not seen.  

Creative ways
to present news to audiences are increasingly seen on social media and various apps.
For instance, the messaging app Snapchat that’s become popular amongst young
audience demographics, incorporated a news feature into the apps home screen in
early 2016. This enables the user to be able to browse bite-sized articles, interactive
features, and summarised news reports. With consideration to their younger audience
demographic, these news features are usually focused on celebrity gossip,
sports, and fashion; although do include a variety of stories from a plethora
of news and entertainment outlets including Sky Sports, Buzzfeed, National
Geographic and IGN for example. In addition to this, social media like Twitter
have succeeded in almost overtaking original print publications when it comes
to consumers’ first choice of reliable news. This is mainly due to the effective
use of hashtags and trending topics, allowing a variety of audiences to find,
share, and discuss news much more conveniently – as a result creating increased
competition for print based newspapers.   

It is
undoubtable that the evolution of news has been heavily impacted by the
invention and increased use of smartphones in modern society. With the idea
that everyone has one, as well as being the most easily accessible gateway to
information, it has become important that not just newspaper outlets, but all companies
find a way of incorporating their business model into the daily use of
smartphones. In fact, some studies show that smartphones alone could be mostly to
blame for the decline in print, not just because of innovation and ease of apps,
but due to also becoming more popular with older readers. Business Insider shows
us that in a study between 2015 and 2016, smartphone ownership amidst people
ages over 55 nearly doubled in one year – from being only 30% in March 2015, rising
to 55% in March 2016.1
This shows that even the most important audience demographic for newspaper
readers are deciding to follow the path of new technology and smartphones, and will
too undoubtedly switch to the more accessible option of digital news and media.

The studies
of Rasmus Nielson in his book ‘Local Journalism: The Decline of Newspapers and
the Rise of Digital Media’, discuss the idea that local journalism today is
changing due to the larger changes underway in our media environments, mentioning
that in order for the future of local journalism to continue, the profession
will have to alter its business models to suit new technology.2 Although
this is currently the case with contemporary media, he goes onto saying that it
could still be positive for Journalism, as the “new digital media environment represents
considerable potential for inspiring new forms of local journalism”, and that
is the method in which corporations should move towards in order to keep
revenue and interest alive in such a fast-developing environment.

have always been aware of the decline in print platform, and it wasn’t a challenge
for figures like Alan Rusbridger to examine the statistics available and
realise that action must be taken in order to stay relevant as a news source
despite the digital revolution. News outlets noticed these trends and in turn attempted
to slowly implement more online features. An example of this can be seen
throughout The Guardian’s own timeline, with firstly the introduction of a
digital edition of the paper in 2004, available to monthly subscribers and
allowing access to articles, images and adverts as they were in the printed
version. Furthermore, The Guardian also explored more interactive content with
the creation of an online dating service named ‘Soulmates’, and a Guardian
student website in 2012, with the aim of attracting a more diverse audience
demographic through the use of the internet.

Despite the
unavoidable move over to digital media that news institutions will have to make
in the future, profit is still going to be an issue for businesses. This is due
to the fact that digital advertising, paywalls or other methods of subscriptions
simply don’t make as much revenue as physical print products; however are
becoming more popular for advertisers. In George Brock’s book ‘Out of Print’,
he discusses the idea that advertising revenue for print papers has been
declining much more rapidly than the profit gained from an increasing number of
digital ads, mentioning that ‘figures between 1995 and 2007 in the EU newspaper
industry revealed income shrinking by 10.6% per year’, suggesting a direct
cause between the decline of print products.3 This
is backed up by research from Enders Analysis, in which they state that ‘for
every £154 newspapers lose in print revenue, they gain only £5 in digital
revenue.’ According to statistics, they also estimate that national newspaper
revenue will fall from £1.5 billion in 2011, to just £533 million by 2019.

Despite popular
newspapers suffering circulation falls, they are still considered by consumers
to be the more reliable and accurate way to consume news. In fact, a lot of other
platforms heavily rely on the information used to present their journalism to
audiences, and to acquire trustworthy sources or quotes. For this reason,
current journalists are hoping that the newspaper industry will see a rise in
revenue for traditional and reliable news, comparably to how the music industry
sees spikes in popularity from traditional music like vinyls instead of digital
media. With such negative statistics surrounding the newspaper industry, the future
of printed papers seems bleak, as the only method of these news outlets continuing
to make revenue might be to embrace new media and to fully switch over into the
digital world.


Word Count:

1 Edwards, J. (2018). For
every £154 newspapers lose in print revenue, they gain only £5 on the digital
side. online Business Insider. Available at:


2 Nielsen, R. (2015). Local
Journalism: The Decline of Newspapers and the Rise of Digital Media.
London: I. B. Tauris & Company.


3 Brock, G. (2013). Out
of print. London: Kogan Page.



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