Print media: A sunset industry or evolving in the era?

FOR anyone who is interested in news, it is hard not to realise that print journalism is on life support, stagnated and struggling to survive.

While some people would still appreciate the experience of flipping through a physical newspaper, the advent of the information age, via internet, has encouraged more people to access online media through their digital devices.

This is the reality of today: Why would anyone still buy newspapers these days when unlimited free content is widely available on the internet? Such is the beauty of the digital era!

In Malaysia, the closure of several major publications had raised concerns about the survival and relevancy of the print media industry. While the 122-year-old Malay Mail published its final print edition in December 2018 before going fully digital, the Tamil-language daily, Tamil Nesan called it a day in 2019 after 94 years.

In an interview with Bernama in 2019, veteran newsman Tan Sri Johan Jaafar, who was once the chief editor of the Utusan Malaysia Group, said that the industry has “a very bleak, difficult and uncertain future.”

According to Johan, newspapers have been slowly dying over the past decade or so. It is a sunset industry, after all, and whether one likes it or not, that is the reality.

“Yes, it’s very scary. It pains me but I’m being realistic. There are even naysayers who believe that in the next five years, almost all newspapers in the world will cease to exist in their traditional form based on the declining sales. I believe that’s a possibility,” he said.

So, with such bleak predicament for print media, is there a way for us to preserve the news industry, which an important bastion for functioning democracy across the globe?

One way is to embrace digitalisation, even if not fully, at least partially. For those who wish to go fully digital, they could consider providing news for free, while getting revenue to online advertorial content.

For those going partially-digital, the media organisation could use the same model above but retain some print version of it, possibly covering hyperlocal issues which would benefit the locality.

The tenets of journalism remain the same, regardless of the platform. As such, journalists – especially the old-school ones – must adapt quickly and learn to tell their stories differently, via multiple platforms.

After all, as the saying goes, ‘the times change, and if you don’t change with them, you get left behind.’ – March 10, 2021


Photo credit: Vox

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