In May, 2012 the New Orleans Times-Picayune cut its publishing to three days a week making the Crescent City the first major U.S. market to go without a daily paper. It was the start of a “digital-first” trend that is rapidly spreading across the United States and leaving numerous major markets without a daily paper. Add to this trend the volume of newspapers forced out of business or filing for bankruptcy and it is clear that the future of print news is tentative at best.
Research shows that digital is the media of choice for news. In a recent survey 41% of respondents, and 65% of 18 to 29 year olds, said the Internet was their main news source.1 But the digital channels are rapidly evolving. After years of market leadership as a digital news feed, Google shut down Google Reader last year, conceding to other syndicated news feeds offering news via website, tablet and smartphone. Buzzfeed and Upworthy have demonstrated huge uptake. On mobile there are highly customizable apps like Flipboard and Feedly, and more curated options like Yahoo News Digest and Circa.2
Now the trend is toward social media as a pathway to news. For American adults under 30, social media has far surpassed newspapers as a primary source of daily news.3 A recent study found that 33 percent of young adults got news from social networks the day before, while just 13 percent read print or digital newspaper content. Seeing this opportunity and combining both mobile and social strength, in January Facebook introduced its mobile app called Paper that offers users a personalized stream of news. Instead of editors and reporters, Facebook’s publication is staffed by a computer algorithm and human “curators.” The content comes from outside sources, based on links shared by the social network’s 1.2 billion users.4
For publishers, reducing the frequency of printed news is not necessarily the beginning of the end. The growth in the subscription rate of the New York Times is evidence that people will continue to pay for great content and investigative journalism.5 But publishers must invest aggressively in new products to attract digitally savvy consumers who prefer to read news on the go. For many publishers a clear differentiated strategy for each channel is needed that considers the strength of the publisher’s brand, its reporting power, the type of content it can deliver to each channel, and the ability to offer advertisers specific audience demographics through subscription, website traffic or social distribution.
In the New Orleans market, as the Times-Picayune dropped its daily print edition to push toward digital, another upstart paper immediately entered the market to fill the daily home delivery void. The battle is in full swing -- not just in New Orleans, but for all publishers as they innovate to keep pace with the digital consumer.
4 Jan 30 2014, “Born Online, Facebook Now Wants to be Your “Paper””