The newspaper is dead. Long live the newspaper!
These are confusing times in the UK media industry. Today sees the launch of the New Day, the UK’s first new national daily paper since the Independent first published in 1986. Yet at the same time, the Independent itself is axing its print edition and going entirely online. Who’s right? Is it a new day for newspapers, or is the sun setting on print?
Back to print
The publishers of the New Day say it’s designed to lure digital readers back to print. Intended to be read in no more than 30 minutes, the New Day deliberately abandons all the norms associated with a daily paper. It has no leader column, or political point of view – and not even a website. It serves up bite-size magazine-style content, with big pictures, infographics and snappy news digests. This is a news and feature snack for the busy reader usually flicking through news on a smartphone.
It will be fascinating to see if it succeeds, but surely the industry’s momentum is heading in the opposite direction. The Guardian, the UK national paper that has made the most successful shift into digital – becoming one of the world’s leading digital news organisations – is now investing so much in online news that many think it will eventually go the way of the Independent. In fact, within 10 or 15 years, some predict that most national newspapers in the UK will be digital-only.
Same challenge for broadcasters
Digital isn’t only revolutionising the written media. TV broadcasters face the same challenge. In the same month that the Independent announced its intention to close its paper, the BBC took its youth-focused TV channel, BBC Three, off-air. The channel is now also digital only – available online and on-demand, but not on TV as we traditionally know it.
Other channels are expected to follow suit. The whole idea of TV programmes being packaged into schedules and broadcast into our homes is being fundamentally threatened by the rise of on-demand broadcasters like Netflix and Amazon. Ten years ago, I was commissioned to write a feature for Broadcast magazine called the ‘New Kings of Content’ – looking at how digital giants outside the traditional broadcast industry, such as Apple, Google and Amazon, were squaring up to television broadcasters with a new model of on-demand content.
As we now gorge on Netflix box-sets and see Top Gear re-launched on Amazon, how true that has turned out to be. Some observers say traditional broadcast channels, just like newspapers, are also in their final years and predict a few of the biggest names will be gone by 2026.
These are seismic shifts in media consumption. A world where old established rules are changing, with media consumed à la carte rather than served as a set menu, demands careful thinking – or rethinking – about the most appropriate manner to tell your story. Content is still king; but it’s being packaged, distributed and consumed in ever-changing ways.