OPINION: How Your Phone is Killing the Newspaper Industry

By Sharon Shatananda

It’s no secret that teenagers prefer cell phones over newspapers. Generation Z never knew printed papers as the main source of news, and that makes sense. While previous generations’ idyllic mornings consisted of a cup of coffee and the morning edition of the Times, today’s increasingly digital world has no need for a paper. What a newspaper tells the world in two well-edited pages, Twitter can cover in a matter of seconds. Entertainment, too, has moved from crosswords and comics to YouTube videos of cats – and technology is the cause.  

Between TV, the Internet, and apps, newspapers just can’t compete. The public, so used to having access to information 24/7, now demands up-to-the second updates. Newspapers can only provide week-old news, which is no longer relevant. Sports scores or results are available after a single Google search. It is no wonder that teenagers don’t feel the need to read a long article simply reporting the facts of a game when they can watch a quick video or hear directly from the athlete on ESPN.

To journalists, including the ones writing this paper, the decline of newspapers is devastating. The advertising revenue needed to keep a paper going is increasingly difficult to find (the Pew Research Center reported print ad revenue decreased from $42,209 in 2007 to $20,692 in 2011), and readership is falling consistently. Every paper, from local to national, is facing this problem.

The Washington Post, which was sold by longtime publishers the Graham family to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos earlier this year, is a prime example. As the Post reported after the sale, Bezos only read newspapers in their digital form and predicted that “printed newspapers will not be commonly used in 20 years.” If Bezos’ theory proves true, newspapers will have to continue their transition from print to online just to keep up. Many papers were forced to make the switch to solely online versions, while others work to expand their digital presence through apps, interactive e-editions, and social media.

With continuous advancements in technology, it is completely unrealistic to believe that a medium dating back centuries would still be relevant today. Truly, the newspaper industry is not alone. Almost every field has been shaken by technology, rarely for the good of the worker. Book stores can be one-upped by Amazon, teachers replaced by online courses, and factory workers replaced by machines. The switch in the newspaper industry just means that solid writing and reporting will be even more important to set the professionals apart from an unreliable tweet. People still have opinions and still want to share them, and the only change will be in the medium. Every industry has adapted and survived. Journalists will do the same.

Meilan Solly contributed to this editorial.