According to a 2006 article in The Economist, newspaper circulation has been falling steadily in America, Western Europe, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand since the beginning of the decade. The author of the article hypothesizes that the rise of internet usage and web-based advertisements are at fault, and the last three years have seen this theory further substantiated. Newspapers across the country have been experiencing the double trouble of declining advertisement revenue and declining readership, which has led to papers having to sacrifice page numbers or even go under completely. Philip Meyer, author of the book “The Vanishing Newspaper,” presents his calculation that the beginning of 2043 will see “newsprint die in America.”
To add insult to injury, industry professionals have blamed young people for the print panic because more and more students and tech-savvy young adults are getting their news online. In the Economist article, a poll among Britons aged 15 to 24 showed that upon first using the web this age group will spend 30% less time reading national newspapers. Some major players with sufficient funding have searched for new ways to take back their young readership, like focusing less of their journalism on international affairs and policies and more on entertainment and lifestyle pieces that relate more to the sometimes-disconnected American youth.
This literary dumping of political issues because they won’t sell is dangerous, however, because newspapers will no longer possess the interest or the financial power to keep a watchful eye on government practices. Throughout this country’s history, it has been the role of the Fourth Estate to be the public watchdog for political corruption and corporate fraud. More so, a de-emphasis on the search for truth in public affairs could make already volatile political tensions worse. How could the Senate possibly agree on a healthcare bill compromise if their constituents are being misinformed about the debate because the media has failed to properly inform them?
A faint ray of hope lies in the fact that newspapers have not yet started to shut down in large numbers, and so they may still have time to integrate new, money-making technologies. However, the Economist article claims that “it is only a matter of time;”
According to the Newspaper Association of America, the years between 1990 and 2004 saw an 18% decrease in the number of people employed in the newspaper industry.
If this rate progressively gets worse, people living a century from now may only be able to see newspapers in museums.