Over the past decade there has been a major shift in the way people obtain their news. The online world-wide-web is now the preferred medium for news consumers. Before most people had access to the Internet, they were receiving their information via printed-paper delivered daily to their homes. Today, with new technology surpassing the old, online news consumption has taken the lead over print newspapers in ad revenue and audience for the first time in 2010. This is not surprising to some people. Back in 1994, Richard Stark predicted that “the capabilities of electronic publishing will in turn lead to a radical re-think in the way newspaper publishers operate and in the way they present their stories.”
Some people even believe that printed newspapers will be extinct in the near future. Philip Meyer, a respected author, has said that newsprint in America will die in the first quarter of 2043. So, what does the rise of online newsgathering have in store for us, besides the possible extinction of a printed medium? The future generations of readers are more accustomed to the Internet and smartphones, for they are surrounded by it everyday. With these tools, one cannot only access the information more easily, but also contribute to the reporting. This ability has created “a new force of citizen journalists and bloggers.” Getting news online also makes it easier for the consumer to find what they are interested in. This creates a problem for many large news companies. The audience will be browsing for more individualized material, thus making it harder for companies to compete with specialized online blogs and websites.
Online media is quickly taking over as the preferred way of accessing news. The new digital era is causing a steady decline in printed formats, molding a new type of journalist, and creating a mobile future for gathering news.
The Decline of Printed News
Our younger generations are the main contributors to the decline of printed newspapers. The younger crowd is brought up with new technology everywhere—including the schools they are taught in. Because this generation was already used to computers in the form of video games and entertainment, they were the first group targeted for electronic publishing. Teachers began to use news from the Internet for instructional purposes. According to the Carnegie-Knight Task Force, “Teachers say their students prefer the Internet, followed by television news, and then by the newspaper.” The same group quoted a teacher, who said, “students do not relate to newspapers at all, any more than they would to vinyl records.” This is a great analogy that proves technology can advance and surpass older-generation mediums—possibly to the point of their extinction. Records used to be the only way one could listen to music. Today, the Internet and computers have allowed us to access music digitally. Technology has advanced and thus records are no longer in production (or it is very limited). This same process of replaced technology may occur for printed newspapers as well—and already is for many local companies.
Teachers, along with many others on the web, have switched from “local news outlets to a small number of national ones.” The Carnegie-Knight Task Force has found that nearly two-thirds of teachers using internet-based news “frequently rely on the websites of nationally known news organizations.” This trend of gathering information from only the top sources is not limited to teachers. Between 2008 and 2009, 106 local newspapers closed down in Britain—mainly because advertising migrated to the Web. Without money from advertisements, it is impossible for a newspaper to survive.
In the end, it is the tech savvy future generations that will cause printed paper to collapse. Even journalism students attest to this. A survey, taken from Australian journalism students, “found 90 percent of aspiring journalists did not read newspapers, preferring their news from commercial television or online.” But the question still remains—who will these new journalists be, and how will their practices differ from traditional journalism?
New Journalists and their Audience
The world-wide-web has created a new way to communicate and socialize. Social-networking websites like Facebook and Twitter have allowed individuals to interact with one another through media such as blogs, videos, pictures, etc. We have entered into a new age—the age of communicating digitally. With this technology at our fingertips, we can freely express our opinions on certain matter and “report” on current events. This is called blogging—the new form of amateur reporting. Some argue that these citizen journalists will provide the Internet with more content, more information, more analysis, and a wider range of niches. It has been predicted that this new form of journalism will “give rise to a new social model based on a pro-am (that is, professional-amateur) partnership.” One online company is already looking into this. The non-profit group NewAssignment.Net will “combine the work of amateurs and professionals to produce investigative stories on the Internet.” But blogging and online news by itself will not be sufficient for enticing the modern reader.
The major online newspapers today are “trying to attract younger readers by shifting the mix of their stories towards entertainment, lifestyle and subjects more relevant to people’s daily lives.” These companies realize that the younger demographics are not news junkies. Thus, they are harder to engage as an audience. Paul Bolls of Reynolds Journalism Institute believes that news should effectively engage the brain. In doing so, he claims that it will “have the potential to grow the news audience in ways that help secure the financial future of journalism.” Videos and photographs tend to effectively turn the brain “on” for the majority of our youth. A great example of an online news video “engager” is YouTube.
According to Peer and Ksiazek, news is “the fastest growing category of videos viewed online.” YouTube is a website that is leading the way in online video streaming. Anyone can own a YouTube account and upload their own videos—whether it is newsworthy or not. So, with the need to attract younger crowds and have them engaged, news organizations are beginning to demand more from their journalists. They are now requiring them “to master new skills and ‘keep up’ with various trends,” “encouraging the use of video.”
The modern professional journalist is adapting to the digital age and its demands. The audience is adapting as well—and in a sense, also becoming reporters. But how are they obtaining all of this new, constantly flowing news?
Technology and the Future
The mobile phone and tablets are quickly taking over as the preferred way of getting news in America. According to the Pew Research Center, “nearly half of all Americans now get some form of local news on a mobile device.” The mobile devices that everyone uses are called smart-phones, “which are effectively small computers that allow people to access the Internet wirelessly.” A tablet, such as Apple’s iPad, is essentially a larger, lap-sized version of a smart-phone without the phone capability. These are continually growing in popularity, for they are easier to read and use. As mobile and tablet technology advance, so do the news organizations. Executives at The Associated Press have said that “mobile news delivery offers newspapers and other media companies a good opportunity to make money in the digital world.” The chairman of The Associated Press advocates “for rapid adaptation to new technologies.” This is smart thinking, considering technology is changing at a very fast rate.
As stated earlier, interacting with the reader and getting them engaged is important. According to Nick Bilton, “smart content and smart sensors” could permit cellphones to read the news aloud when they “sense” we are busy with something else—like driving in our cars. When interviewed by Wired Magazine in 2009, Bilton was “working on a custom NYTimes application that will only show stories you’re interested in and let you save videos for playback at home.” This is proof that the future of online news gathering is going to involve more interaction with the reader.
News is no longer acceptable as simply writing on paper. It has transformed into a digital medium and has adapted to the advancement of technology over the past decade. Pictures and video are gradually becoming standard with this transformation. Social-networks are allowing people to interact with news and express their personal opinions to the world. Mobile phones and tablets are allowing them to access news whenever, wherever they are. It is hard to fathom technology advancing any further. But when it does, it will allow us to interact with news at a closer level than ever before.
 The State of the News Media, Pew Research Center, “Woes go Beyond Audience, Economics: Journalism losing Control of Future,” http://stateofthemedia.org/2011/overview-2/press-alert/, visited April 9th, 2012. (hereinafter Pew Research)
 The Electronic Library, Richard Stark, “The Newspaper of the Future,” Aug. 1994, Vol. 12, No. 4, p. 245. (hereinafter Stark)
 The Economist, “Who killed the newspaper? – Who killed the newspaper? The future of newspapers,”http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy2.library.arizona.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA1499973
 Economist, supra note 3.
 Stark, supra note 2, p. 246.
 The Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, Carnegie-Knight Task Force, “The Internet and the Threat it Poses to Local Media: Lessons from News in the Schools,” http://www.hks.harvard.edu/presspol/research/carnegie-knight/internet_in_schools_2007.pdf, visited on April 9th, 2012, p. 6. (hereinafter Carnegie-Knight)
 Journalism Studies, James Curran, “The Future of Journalism,” 2010, Vol. 11, No. 4, p. 465. (hereinafter Curran)
 Quadrant, Stephen Quinn, “The Future of Journalism,” September 2009, p. 71. (hereinafter Quinn)
 Curran, supra note 10, p. 466.
 Economist, supra note 3.
 Reynolds Journalism Institute, Paul Bolls, “Wanted: Motivated, engaged audience to secure the future of news,” http://rjionline.org/blog/wanted-motivated-engaged-audience-secure-future-news, visited on April 7th, 2012.
 Journalism Studies, Limor Peer and Thomas B. Ksiazek, “Youtube and the Challenge to Journalism: New Standards for news videos online,” 2011, Vol. 12, No. 1, p. 47.
 Pew Research, supra note 1.
 Quinn, supra note 11.
 Bloomberg Businessweek, Kristen Wyatt, “News executives say mobile delivery future of news,” http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9POVERO0.htm, visited on April 9th, 2012.
 Wired, Ryan Singel, “Times Techie Envisions the Future of News,” http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2009/03/the-future-of-n/, visited on April 9th, 2012.