Sometimes subs do not serve authors well. The tone of the standfirst on Peter Cole’s On The Press column in the Sindy today suggests a tone that is not reflected in the copy. It reads: “Rumours of the death of print media are not only grossly exaggerated, they’re irresponsible and wrong.”
None of the words “grossly, exaggerated, irresponsible or wrong” are among those Cole uses.
While he is not saying everything in the garden is blooming for print he does look for the bright side and takes a swipe at the “prophets of doom”. He believes what is happening to print sales is neither terminal nor catastrophic. He bases his argument on the latest ABC figures for the broadsheets that have moved to more compact formats. He writes:
It [the Berliner Guardian] is selling 3.4 per cent more than its broadsheet counterpart of July 2005. Next to downsize was The Independent on Sunday, selling last month 12.3 per cent more copies than in its last days as a broadsheet. And finally, The Observer is selling 4.3 per cent more copies than it did as a broadsheet in November 2005. The Telegraph titles, which have remained broadsheet, have lost sales over the period since The Independent launched as a compact – the daily 4.1 per cent down, the Sunday 10.5 per cent down.
That is a rather selective list and over at the Observer, Peter Preston takes a rather different view concluding: “There now. Everybody sitting uncomfortably and feeling pretty miserable? Because that, in short, is the story.”
If only sales figures were the only indicators there might be room for optimism that the figures could be turned around. But they are not. The advertising landscape is moving and newspapers, even with the aid their online versions, cannot hope to retain their share of the past.
Printed newspapers are not going to disappear suddenly. Some will survive for a very long time while those that go first will be probably those that would have been vulnerable if the internet had never been invented.
Cole draws encouragement from last month’s publication of a survey by the World’s Editors’ Forum. It found that 85 per cent were “very” or “somewhat” optimistic about the future of newspapers.
When I looked at this survey my first caveat was that it was international and included Asia and Africa where much of the print media is booming.
I have another worry. It is whether the term newspapers is being used for the print versions or or is the term extended to include the online offerings. I tend to use the wider definition of “newspaper” and put “printed” in front of it if I mean the paper version only. But in various statements and reports it is not always clear.
And for the benefit of Cole and others in their grey bastion of Independent House which daily grows to more closely resemble the battleships which are often parked outside, cutting editorial staff is not what anyone else sees as a solution. It is worth repeating the words of Bertrand Pecquerie, director of WEF, commenting on the survey:
Eighty-five percent of senior news executives see a rosy future for their newspaper, and itâ€™s quite a surprise.
Editors recognize competition from online sources and free papers, and in turn are making efforts to adapt to 21st century readership. They know how to effectively make the transition to online journalism without reducing editorial quality. Editors-in-chief realise that content matters more than ever and cutting newsroom resources is not at all an effective solution: the reshaping of news will take place with journalists, rather than at their expense.