On 10/09/2012, I came across a link to a debate (video) on the fate of newspapers in the era of social media from the UN webcast. I tweeted this link and copied in Charles Onyango Obbo, Robert Kabushenga and David Kalinaki. This was later to turn into an interesting discussion to which I was exceedingly humbled to have been a part of. But with the fast growing social media which is transforming how news is generated, handled and shared, the newspaper industry finds itself in a rather unfamiliar state. Some have argued that high-definition tablets will do for print newspapers what high-mega pixel cameras did for film.
Uganda’s newsprint industry is vibrant and the biggest market share is being enjoyed by The New Vision Printing and Publishing Company Ltd with most stakes in hands of government, privately-owned Daily Monitor and Uganda’s leading tabloid, The Red Pepper.
Newspapers have for long delivered news about events in almost all parts of the world providing an indispensable source of information for elite citizens. From news, news analysis, commentaries, opinions, art reviews, running of adverts, classified adverts, calendar of events, jokes, health, business, sports, weather forecasts to games and much more.
People used to wake up to see the front page of the newspaper to know what happened yesterday. This has changed. With the emergence of social media in form of sites such as facebook, twitter, blogs, YouTube etc, a mere click of a button keeps you in close tab with all that is happening around the world almost in real time. Citizens can now easily generate news content and share it with those in their networks.
Today, people in need of news go directly to the websites of newspapers, check News on the Google page, follow blog posts and follow links posted on their twitter and facebook timelines. Others use the mobile platform by subscribing to news updates. The key advantage is that such news is almost in real time and at times more relevant that news in print. Needless to add, newspaper industry appreciates this fact the reason why they have active websites and social media platforms such as facebook and twitter. So what is the place for the newspaper (print version) in the industry today?
First and foremost, I believe newspapers demand more focus and engagement from readers. Unlike scrolling through a story online at your desk, newspapers can be read from almost anywhere and this saves you from the distraction of countless other diversions which are just a click away such as the social network and emails.
Secondly, physical newspapers address a wide range of topics and ideas you simply can’t find on a single site. Not even the newspaper websites. On the contrast, to access all such topics and ideas that are relevant to the local environment, one would have to wonder across countless sites.
Electronic news is also quite superficial while reading which tempts readers to almost unknowingly barely skim through the stories.
Newspapers are simply beyond “breaking the news” which is the place of electronic media.
Unlike electronic news, mostly in the social media domain which is often brief and speculative, newspapers provide an in depth analysis of news events which breeds an informed public and you always know what column to expect in tomorrow’s paper.
It is however of course prudent for newspaper companies to remain very active online as this ensures they remain relevant in the electronic news world. This also caters for their online clients. The newspaper industry simply needs to continue to figure out how well to monetize online content to equal business sense, develop more online events and promote & monetize user-generated content.
Social media is here to complement the newspaper print version not to necessarily out compete it.
Social media is simply no match to a newspaper.
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