Opinion: Long live printed newspapers. Digital won’t work for these readers
When I started working as a reporter in the 1950s, we used to take the newspaper to town to get news about our own news. Today we just Google what’s happening in every city, then print the article, scan it in and upload it to our digital screens via our mobile phones or computers. That’s why in the 1970s we used to say: “We’ll hold out for our newspapers, thank you very much.” Today we say that this is one of the most exciting and significant times for business and journalism. But there are some journalists who are still trying to get hold of a newspaper, who are trying to read it online, and they are not having any luck, and they are really sad.
The Daily Telegraph’s digital strategy – which sees the loss of print revenues – would have been unthinkable at the beginning of the paper’s glorious history in 1847. Back then the Daily Telegraph was the only daily paper in London, making up for the loss of the afternoon and Saturday editions. The newspaper’s revenues were £200 in 1847-8. Now it is losing £100,000 a year, in comparison with the £8.4m profit the Daily Mail newspaper makes in its digital operation during the same period. The loss of print revenues would have been unthinkable in this era, when people had no access to the internet.
The Daily Telegraph website has been a success, and the newspaper, like many other publishers, was making a lot from digital advertising, so the decision to stop publishing on paper is entirely understandable. But in an age when people actually want to access news, the loss of print revenues would have been catastrophic, and a paper would have been the best way to guarantee our survival. But the digital age has taken over.
In recent weeks we have heard about the collapse of print journalism in the United States, where only one newspaper group, the McClatchy newspapers, is keeping their old name. In Australia’s newspapers it is a very different story – the Sydney News does not have a digital edition, but other newspapers like the Brisbane Times and the Adelaide Advertiser do. Newspaper executives and journalists are talking about the future of journalism not in terms of print, but in terms of digital.