Opinion Column

Death of newspapers grossly exaggerated

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours



Saturday’s untimely death of the 80-year-old Kamloops Daily News is yet another reminder to those who love newspapers that the future is either digital or dismal.

Newspapers are hemorrhaging ad revenue to Internet advertising in stunning amounts that no transfusion can stem – it requires radical surgery to save the patient.

But when brilliant investors like Warren Buffett are buying – not selling – newspapers and committing to content in print and online, then hope is not lost.

And Internet advertising growth is truly stunning.

In Canada in 2012 Internet advertising was $3 billion, compared to daily newspaper ads at just $2 billion, according to Interactive Advertising Bureau figures reported in September 2013.

Internet advertising, including on mobile phones, was worth $237 million in 2003 but has now captured 27.5% of all major media advertising. It is only $382 million behind TV ads at $3.5 billion and 31% overall.

But TV ad revenue shrunk 2% in 2012, while Internet ads jumped 15%.

Fortunately, there are many reasons newspapers will still thrive in the years ahead.

The newspaper you are holding – or reading online at your computer, tablet or cell phone – is a digital-age pioneer.

First – 24 hours Vancouver launched in March 2005 as a free weekday newspaper, avoiding the significant cost of home distribution, circulation and subscription administration while providing advertisers with daily circulation of 132,216 and 237,000 readers, growing to 651,000 weekly.

Second – 24 hours Vancouver has always had a significant online presence and has more than 37,000 Twitter followers.

There’s no guarantee any business will succeed indefinitely – think Blockbuster Video – but it’s hard to beat Buffett’s optimistic advice.

“Papers delivering comprehensive and reliable information to tightly-bound communities and having a sensible Internet strategy will remain viable for a long time,” Buffet told his Berkshire Hathaway investors. “We do not believe that success will come from cutting either the news content or frequency of publication.”

We may mourn more individual losses but the daily newspaper that adapts to changing times should be around for centuries to come.


Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read more at billtieleman.blogspot.com Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman




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