What the future holds for print and online journalism

There is no doubt that print journalism is on the decline – lots of print journalists, myself included, shifted to other, more dynamic, forms of the trade – web journalism being the foremost among them. There are still lots of traditionalists who shun people that leave print in favour of other forms of media, but at the end of the day, the bills need to be paid, and daily expenses, such as grocery, appliance repair and luxuries, have to be met.

Let’s explore how the decline began, why online journalism gained so much traction and what the future holds for journalists.

The steady decline of print journalism started out in the late 1980s, well before online journalism had become a real thing. This decline become more pronounced as the digital era dawned, with digital journalism gaining popularity and the public gaining access to the Internet. It cannot be said that the fall of the former and the rise of the latter are directly correlated – print journalism had been on the decline well before online journalism had become common.

It is probably due to the fact that print journalism had been failing at delivering quality content for quite some time. Aside from this, the readily available cable television and 24 hour news channels made the printed product far less interesting, the front pages printed what most people had seen on last night’s news. This problem was accentuated by online journalism – with users being able to easily check the news at any time of the day, thereby losing their morning paper or even news viewing habit. Print media hasn’t changed from what it used to be 4 decades ago, it hasn’t adapted properly to the changing circumstances, and is in desperate need of an overhaul which isn’t happening.

People like the online form of journalism because it allows them to create and consume stories through new and varied languages and features. Interactivity and multimedia are two important features of this medium, and with the social tools thrown in, it becomes a different ballgame entirely. The near unlimited access to online media is equally important, with users being able to watch/listen/read the news from thousands of outlets across the globe. Geography is no longer the limit – it is only a search parameter.

As a colleague of mine shrewdly observed, the whole journalism industry is presently going through an identity crisis. With the exception of a handful of media groups, most do not have a well-defined strategy to deal with the new demands presented by the digital era. The last few years have seen journalists being fired left, right and centre, while the demand for skilled people in newsrooms increased. This hasn’t just affected online production, but also print. Good journalism has also gone out the window in some cases, with the journalists being told by their bosses to produce stories with glitz rather than content. In other words, quality has declined in both online and print journalism. It can be said then, that both facets of journalism face the same problem, essentially a lack of proper strategies and long-term planning on part of media group boards, and also the ‘us vs. them’ (i.e. print vs. online) mentality, which has become extremely common these days.