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"Your Community, Your Newspaper, Your Life."¯

Original post made by Gina Channell-Allen, president of the Pleasanton Weekly, on Oct 8, 2013

This is the 73rd National Newspaper Week!
I thought I would address one of the questions I am asked often: "What's going to happen to the newspaper industry? Aren't newspapers a dying breed?"

People have been predicting the end of newspapers for decades. And if publishers had maintained their staunch opposition (almost to the point of arrogance) to anything digital, those naysayers might have been right. I remember standing in a newsroom at a daily Illinois newspaper in the early 1990s and hearing the managing editor say, "We will never put our journalism on the Web. Never!"

Ironically, while I was in Illinois listening to reasons why my stories would never be in digital form, the parent company of this website, Embarcadero Media Group, got onboard with putting their journalism on the Web. In 1994, the [Web Link Palo Alto Weekly] was the first newspaper in the U.S. to have a website.

Now newspaper content is available on so many platforms other than newsprint. And last year newspaper subscriptions actually increased because now digital and bundled subscriptions are included in the numbers. Those subscriptions only account for a 5% increase in the number.

What I find particularly heartening is that more young people, including "Millenials," are reading newspaper content. But unlike their parents who read on their desktop, or their grandparents who share sections of the paper across the kitchen table, they access the content on mobile devices. Here are some other interesting facts from a report published in March by the Newspaper Association of America using the latest data on media consumption from Scarborough Research:

* The vast majority of U.S. adults, 164 million (69%), read newspaper media content in print or online in a typical week, or access it on mobile devices in a typical month.

* The majority (59%) of young adults, ages 18-24, read newspaper media content in print or online in a typical week, or access it on mobile devices in a typical month.

* The mobile newspaper audience is growing fast; up 58% in an average month in 2012 compared with 2011. That totals 34 million adults.

* The mobile audience skews young; the median age of an adult newspaper mobile user is 17 years younger than the print reader.

* Those who are newspaper mobile-exclusive - that is, those who access newspaper content on mobile devices only - are younger by four more years (with a median adult age of 33). That audience grew 83% in 2012 compared with a year ago.

So not only are subscription numbers increasing, the median age of newspaper readers is younger!

So, no, the newspaper industry is not on its way out, but the vehicle by which we receive and read content has definitely changed. The industry's goal is not to sell newspapers, but to educate and inform citizens of the republic. As the "Fourth Estate," we can accomplish that goal in print or digitally.

Comments (2)

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Posted by William Garrison
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 8, 2013 at 11:32 pm

Newspaper editors can ballyhoo all they want about print vs. web. Just another indication that they are clueless about how the world has changed, how journalism has been consistently spiraling down the drain, and how our communities-as-public-realm have suffered because of such.

For decades the overwhelming majority of newspapers has been corporate owned. Today, not only are they corporate owned, but they are corporate controlled. Almost completely dependent on corporate advertising, rarely do newspapers dare cross that line between corporate advertising and corporate wrath.

The quality of journalism has steadily declined over the years. Most journalism programs don't focus on much more than spelling and grammar. Asking hard questions? Forget it. How are young journalists to know what questions to ask when they don't have any extensive training in, say, economics or political science? How are young journalists to show the courage to ask probing questions when editors and owners, sensitive to the wants and needs of their corporate owners and advertisers, are poised with red pen to delete anything that might prove itself to be 'offensive to the sensibilities of their readers' (i.e., translated: offensive to the views of corporate leaders and public relations officers).

As such, concepts such as 'social class' or 'economic exploitation' have been all but purged from the lexicon of corporate media reportage. Opposing sides are reported upon, domestically and internationally, with readers rarely provided even the most minimal understanding of what is at the basis of the opposition. In-depth reportage is absent, displaced by 'Big' questions like Who will win? Who is winning? Who will back down?

Privileged social groups are reported upon regularly. Underprivileged groups are reported upon as criminals, rarely anything else.

Want to see how corporate media might report on the world were they not to be totally watered down by corporate power and journalistic mediocrity? Take a look at the black press. Google the Chicago Defender or New York's Amsterdam News. Notice the kinds of probing questions that are asked, the references to history that in today's corporate media are only the stuff of fish wrap, the effort to give traditionally voiceless peoples a voice. A cursory read of some of the most outstanding black newspapers can only make one ashamed of what most Americans are reading for what passes today as news in the corporate media.

Our corporate media are the McDonalds and Burger Kings of the newspaper industry. Lesser papers, local but no less corporate influenced/controlled, are the Del Tacos. Fast corporately sponsored news is equivalent to fast food. Our bodies are bloated with salt, fat and sugar; our minds saturated and numbed with superficiality.

Example: We see a newspaper's editor wringing hands over the state of today's newspapers, and can't get beyond 'print journalism' v. 'going on the web'. Now, there's a real in-depth treatment of the issue for you! Any reference to (today's absence of) investigative journalism? Any reference to newspapers in historical perspective? Any references to how newspapers can possibly function under corporate power and influence without losing their objectivity (integrity)? Any reference to ethnic media's challenge to the corporate media?

How many of us realize that the ethnically based media in California has a larger combined readership and a larger percentage of subscribers than do the so-called mainstream corporate newspapers? Why might that be? Well, that would call for an honest discussion that places corporate news under some critical scrutiny. Can't have that because, gosh, it might mean reduced subscribers or, more importantly, a withdrawal of corporate support! So, let's talk about something really pithy, like print v. web.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wrong
a resident of Amador Estates
on Oct 9, 2013 at 9:23 am

The overwhelming majority of media outlets, including the Pleasanton Weekly and its parent corporation are nothing more than political activist organizations for the Socialist Democrat party. Period.

My guess is that you will quickly censor this post since you go to great lengths to block any post critical of the Democrat party.

One of the main roles of the media is to keep our government in check and the Pleasanton Weekly, along with it's cohort organizations, fails miserably in this critically important regard.


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