close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

Fleeting moments

December 26, 2020

Shrinking print

Opinion

December 26, 2020


The newspaper print industry is facing a rapid decline. This phenomenon is not restricted to a particular country; it’s being witnessed in many countries to varying degrees. Our own newspapers that once contained many pages have become thinner. Have the people stopped reading newspapers or, instead of subscribing to papers, they read them online?

In whatever way the style of newspaper reading may change, older citizens in the habit of reading still prefer looking for a newspaper first thing in the morning. Holding a newspaper in both hands, a large mug of tea on the table beside, they would read it in leisure. They would usually scan the headings of the leading news first and then go for the articles of their interest. Online reading of the newspaper does not provide the luxury of holding a newspaper and glancing from the top corner of one page to the bottom of the other.

Advertisements are the main source of generating revenues for the newspapers. Income through circulation and subscription comes later. Since the TV media have grabbed most of the adverts from newspapers, the latter suffer immeasurably. Newspapers have to pay salaries and other emoluments to their staff. And this is only as far as office management is concerned, but the expense of operating printing equipment, maintaining its staff, paying utility bills and rents add a huge expense to the overall operating cost of any newspaper.

The newspaper print industry has been suffering mainly because of the internet. As the sale of print editions of the newspaper shrank, even leading newspapers in the US such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal had to put up paywalls. These newspapers didn’t suffer any loss of readership; instead, they attracted more than one million digital subscribers each. British newspapers were not far behind in putting up paywalls for subscribers to read the newspapers online. The Independent stopped publishing its print version in 2016; it is now available online only.

One remembers The Independent more for the late Robert Fisk’s war reports and articles. The award-winning Middle East correspondent of the paper lived and reported from the Arab world for more than 40 years. He covered various wars from his fiercely independent and unbiased viewpoint. Daring and fearless journalists like Fisk are a rarity. His book – 'The Great War of Civilisation' – I now consider my prized possession.

Because of the wide availability of cheap internet in developing countries, including rural areas, the number of subscribers to newspapers’ print editions has drastically dropped. Those interested in reading newspapers usually carry smartphones and log on to the web pages of the newspapers of their choice anytime they feel like. Many newspapers offer to send notifications of breaking news throughout the day. However, the trend of reading newspapers free needs to be discouraged. It’s morally improper to read a newspaper without paying for it.

Some media groups in our country have been forced to lay off staff to cut costs, mainly because of the declining circulation of daily newspapers. So how to remedy the situation when the trend of printed versions of newspapers goes out of vogue? A reasonable option for our newspapers facing the financial crunch is to put up paywalls for online subscribers, as most of the leading newspapers in the West have done.

Keeping in view the competition, the New York Times offers its digital subscription at a dollar a month for the first year. At the present exchange rate, it translates to approximately Rs1920 for a year.

Many among our newspaper reading community may not approve of the policy of charging for online reading of the papers. But under the prevailing economic situation in the country and sale of newspapers on the decline, we should keep in mind the wellbeing of thousands of journalists and employees affiliated with the newspaper industry. They have families to feed and children to educate.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.

Email: [email protected]