POS partner Steve Kinney raised a great issue in his recent blog posting with data reinforcing that print media is losing its relevance. Clearly newspapers are facing tough times, and unless they find a way to become more relevant and sell their content online we could see more major publications stopping their presses.

Some recent Rasmussen Reports surveys show that although 53% of Americans say losing our newspaper industry would be a real tragedy for communities across the nation and for our democracy, a significant 31% say it wouldn’t be, and there is little appetite for government intervention. Almost two-thirds (65%) oppose a federal bailout of the newspaper industry like the one given to the financial sector, and 43% say it is better to let newspapers go out of business compared to 37% who would prefer to provide them federal subsidies.

Certainly, readers are not opposed to reading newspapers online – while print newspaper circulation has been on a steady decline for some time (down to just over 50 million daily readers in 1997 compared to 60 million in 1990*), the online newspaper audience has been on a healthy incline, growing from just over 40 million unique visitors per month to 69 million in October 2008.**

Moreover, while some Americans may express a sentimental attachment to paper and ink and don’t want to see it disappear, 61% of adults say they are confident that if many newspapers go out of business, online and other news sources nextiva review will make up the difference and report on information that people want to know about. They also rate reporting from Internet news sources pretty much as reliable (65%) as the reporting from their local newspapers (70%).

Not everyone agrees with that assessment – in fact online journalists themselves worry about a lack of reliability. In a survey of 300 members of the Online News Association, recently conducted by the Pew Research Center, 57% say the Internet is “changing the fundamental values of journalism,”– the biggest changes being a loosening of standards (45%), more outside voices (31%), and an increased emphasis on speed (25%).

The problem for most newspapers is that they have been giving away content for free online, relying almost exclusively on ad revenues. But, they’re rapidly discovering that’s not enough – especially in these hard economic times – and now they have to figure out how to convince readers it has value and should be paid for. Two-thirds of the online journalists interviewed believe advertising will be the most important revenue stream three years from now, compared to one quarter who names some other revenue source.

Sad to say, but three years from now, if ad revenue is the sole source of many newspaper operations, they’re likely getting ready to close the doors and turn out the lights. The newspaper industry needs to face this challenge head-on, right now, and tear itself away from the sentimental paper presses.

*Source: Barclays Capital

**Source: Nielsen Online, MegaPanel Data

Public Opinion Strategies