San Francisco, Seattle, Denver. Three cities that have — or are about to — lose a daily newspaper. The list may grow as large publishers of many city dailies world wide are in financial difficulty. One thing economic downturns are good at is exposing products, companies or industries that are no longer viable.
So why are newspapers dying? and what does the end mean for city life?
First, newspapers have lost some of their viability because they have generally failed to attract new readers to their print format. People under age 40 tend to read their news online and watch cable news channels rather than read newspapers. I would argue that because they have access to a wide variety of news sources, younger people are also more selective. They do not choose a local daily because it is the local daily, or out of habit. If they don’t connect with the content and the writers, they don’t buy it. And, if you can read the few columnists or topics of interest for free online from the comfort of your laptop, why buy a newspaper.
Second, most newspapers haven’t managed to integrate themselves that well into the online and multi-media-stream world and potential new revenue streams within it. This may be because they try to insert the same content, which only works some of the time in a different medium. And it may be because standard newspapers too often run boring standard news feeds (AP, CP, etc.) or offer unchanged press-releases as news. Yawn. Give me some analysis, perspective, research — something!
What does this mean for cities, and connecting people?
In the past, the majority of residents read the local daily regularly. It connected people to the world and everything about their city — business, sports, culture, arts.
Today, there are so many alternate sources for obtaining this information. Standard news can be found on TV, on the radio, and from online news sources (with the best ones getting more traffic). Blogs too — to know what’s going on at City Hall, I read Frances Bula. Arts, culture, lifestyle information can be found on blogs, through Facebook networks, and specific websites, and now Twitter.
The city is interconnected in so many more ways than just through a newspaper. For many under 40, the loss of newspapers will not be a hardship. But some of the content and writers will be missed — by everyone. In fact, in the vacuum from the final collapse of failing newspapers, I predict new publications will emerge. They might be online arregators first — of content from blogs, twitter feeds, websites, and staff journalists — and a weekly or twice weekly print publication second.