Internet Doesn’t Kill Newspapers, the Owners and the Employees Do

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The twilight of printed media lately has been in the spotlight. The article of Bre Redana, a Kompas journalist, Inikah Senjakala Kami…, was releasing his emotions which seem like blaming the Internet and online journalists. From the article, we can point out that he did not do anything to save his industry. He only complained and did nothing.

As a matter of fact, the issue on the twilight of printed media has already been talked about especially in the USA and Britain since 2009. It all started from the decreasing profit of advertisements and the number of subscribers.

In WAN-IFRA (World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers) Congress, the topics of the discussion was on how printed media industry face the digital era. They were no longer discussing how to make good news or the journalists’ ethics in pursue of the stories. Their focus was one: how the printed media industry can survive from extinction.

In some WAN-IFRA Congresses I attended, the speakers from the leading newspapers such as New York Times, Washington Post and The Wall Street journal elaborated their online media business models. Many others explained how to make popular contents to online readers such as the usage of videos and podcasts. The point is, online media was seriously worked on and put in synergy with printed media.

Newspapers still can survive

In America, in its dying newspaper industry, the owner of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, bought Washington Post $250 million. It meant that there were people taking a risk to buy the newspaper company even it cost so much money. On the other hand, some people still think that newspapers still have business opportunity.

The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times have done freemium business. The contents on their website can be enjoyed for free. Some of them were free. To enjoy all contents, we have to subscribe and paid some money monthly.
One thing I noticed was their effort to adapt in the digital era. They considered this era as an opportunity not as a threat.

The result was astonishing, The New York Times has digital subscribers more than a million. The Guardian saw the opportunity by creating journalism events or workshops which can only be accessed if the readers are members. For a membership, they have to pay some money monthly.

There are many newspapers holding on by starting new business models. They do not only do it conventionally by selling printed form and providing advertisement service.

Adapt or Die

Like homo sapiens evolved and adapted , newspapers have to do it. If not, they will die. Survival to the fittest.

Newspapers can not think merely as news paper. Beyond, they have to be news brand. Newspapers are not the number one media but they have to be in synergy with other medias for the brand.

A media is not merely sells news as it is but it has to be packed with interesting contents and be collaborated them. Contents like news, videos, infographic should be made to meet their readers’ character. Printed media contents are of course different from the online contents as the readers’ characteristics are also different. But, they do not mean that online media are worse than the printed ones.

News brand will package their contents for the brand with the same quality.

Challenges of generation without newspapers

Nowadays generation does not grow with newspapers. They grow with gadgets. When they are adults, they will not remember newspapers. For now, newspapers are still there, but what about in the next five or ten years?

Radio which was predicted to end when television invented finally adapted. Cars made them survive. Even though the listeners were diminishing, drivers still needed radios to accompany in their journeys.

So what about newspapers? How they should adapt? That is the job of the owners and the employees.

Unfortunately, most newspapers’ owners do not understand online media well. Most of them tried to create online media but not seriously with lower quality than the printed media. Finally, the online media do not give any values to the printed one.

Awareness of the owners

When I worked in online media of a newspaper, I was faced the fact that the owner did not understand digital world. He still thought that printed product was number one media beyond the online media. The newspaper for him was still in its glorious era.

Indeed, most of the profit was from newspapers. But, diminishing ad revenues and subscribers and more interests on online media, made the belief of this owner merely utopia.
Initially with my team, I wanted to improve the online media of the newspaper. I had a vision to build online media to be on a par in quality with the printed one. I wanted to make online media with interesting and various contents packaged elegantly.

The Traffic was important but it was not the main objective. The most important objective was to improve the newspaper brand value in the digital world because so far, that newspaper brand was left behind other newspapers. With more brand value, trust would follow and traffic would adjust. From there, we started to think the business model. It certainly needed more time.

But the vision of the owner was not the same with mine. He was swayed by high traffic with no regards of news quality. Online media which was on a par with the printed one, was downgraded to provide bombastic and cheap news such as sexuality and crimes with petty titles.

The news was “sold” with no regards of good journalism ethics. The quality was way below the printed media so I decided to quit.

The owners must be aware if their business is in the brink of extinction. Newspaper business is closing its finish line. If they are still lulled by glory and do nothing, the finish line will come closer to them.

Employees contribution to kill newspaper

The journalists responded differently regarding this printed media’s twilight issue. Some blamed the Internet and some did not even believe if there was such thing happened. Actually, they had their contribution to accelerate the newspaper’s extinction.

Many news were written similarly with the online news, from the angle of the story or even the petty story titling. Some even copied and pasted the online news in the printed media. It aroused a question: If they are the same, why do people have to buy newspapers when they can read it free of charge online?

Newspapers are already slower than online news. If newspapers’ quality is the same with online media, then they are finished. No one will ever look for them again.
Tempo magazine have their readers because it provides different angles from what they have online. Newspapers should be made that way and of course it is the journalists’ job to create contents which make people willing to buy the newspapers.

In the upcoming years, the Internet’s penetration will be much stronger. People will be accustomed to gadget use. The Internet will be more accessible. The objective of the Internet is to provide access of information for people. Consequently, newspapers are no longer the most important information source. The control is in the readers’ hand. That is the challenge newspapers have to face.

Sometime ago, the owner of Koran Sinar Harapan closed its business. Before that, Harian Bola was also closed. The Internet is not here to kill newspapers but the owners are killing it slowly, and of course the employees as their accessaries. (*)

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Media komunikasi dan informasi seputar kampus Universitas Airlangga (Unair).

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