At a time when mass media consumption is in general decline, I was interested to read a Toronto Star that the number of newspaper readers in Canada is actually increasing (well over 50% of adults regularly read the news). Granted, the increase across the 34 Canadian markets studied is marginal (only 2% since 2002) but given that people are turning off their TVs in droves and arent exactly flocking to the box office its interesting to see an old media stalwart that is resisting the long tail trend.
So why is the news industry managing to hold its own? In my view, the industrys relative success compared to other old established media outlets is a result of 2 important factors:
The first of these is the fact that newspapers were quick to adapt to the Internet. The NADbank study in question included a question regarding the time spent reading online newspapers: 17% of Canadians read online papers – a number that has been growing steadily since it started being surveyed. Rather than fighting new media like the TV and music behemoths are still doing (witness YouTube being sued by Viacom for infringement and the constant stream of litigation against peer to peer music download sites), newspapers, in contrast, were quick to adopt new media as an alternative distribution channel. As a result, newspapers are managing to evolve and withstand the new media storm more effectively than their counterparts.
The second reason that the newspaper industry is managing to keep its head above water is because we are becoming a society addicted to information. The Internet has made information on every subject available to everyone, everywhere. Weve been exposed to this mine of information and we want more regardless of the form it takes (a trend validated by the fact that book sales are also increasing). Which is good news for society as a whole.
Only time will tell if newspapers will continue to maintain their readership levels through online channels but when considering how new media will effect markets in the future, their lesson is important to any company – adapt and grow or resist and risk being left behind.