Issues in the Newspaper Industry

This paper will look at the issues faced by the newspaper industry in the past few decades and how the industry dealt with those challenges. This paper will also examine how the newspaper industry could have performed scenario planning more successfully. We will look at some of the failures and also how the newspaper industry has survived through the changes over the last several decades.

It was evident in the 1990s that print media was in trouble, with the news being broadcast 24 hours a day on most major cable networks (Wade, 2012). News consumers no longer needed to wait for the newspaper to be printed and delivered; they could simply tune in on their televisions. It wasn’t until the mid-2000s that newspaper companies began scenario planning to help determine how to save the failing physical printed media industry (Wade, 2012). The rise of digital media significantly impacted how people received and consumed news on a daily basis. Digital media put pressure on the physical printed media industry to keep up with the changing times, thus the need for scenario planning (Wade, 2012).

Scenario planning is a way for companies or industries to speculate and create different pictures of what the future might look like (Hiemstra, 2012). The scenarios being created should be plausible, along with being based on current knowledge or speculation of what future events are likely to take place (Hiemstra, 2012). In order to conduct scenario planning, a workshop was conducted in 2008 In which major newspaper companies participated in the exercise to determine what the business landscape would look like by 2020 (Wade, 2012).

An important step in scenario planning is to create a scenario cross. A scenario cross consists of two pairs of opposite outcomes, such that both outcomes are plausible, but could not both come true at the same time (Wade, 2012). In the case of the newspaper workshop, the scenario cross consisted of pairings between Disruptive media dominates, and Traditional media dominates, along with Mass audience and Targeted audiences (Wade, 2012). The scenario cross can be seen in figure 1. This scenario cross was used to help guide the workshop with their scenario planning (Wade, 2012).

Figure 1 – Scenario cross (Wade, 2012, p. 72)

The workshop produced many different possible views of the future, along with some predictions (Wade, 2012). In 2008 the group correctly predicted that a mobile device would take the place of printed media, unfortunately, it happened sooner than anticipated (Wade, 2012). In 2010 Apple released the iPad, which dramatically changed the way people consumed news on a daily basis (Wade, 2012). Even though the group correctly predicted the creation of such a device, they were not prepared for the impact for another 10 years.

It is important to understand that the newspaper industry had three main sources of revenue, which are paid subscriptions, newsstand sales, and advertising (Wade, 2012). With the decline of sales, there was a sharp decrease in advertising companies willing to invest in printed media (Banku, Valdemara, Riga, & Latvia, 2016). With the decline of income from advertisers, newspapers began cutting back on spending which had a ripple effect on pulp mills needing to lay off employees (Banku et al., 2016).

The physical printing of newspapers did not only decrease within the United States but also in Europe. Since the year 2000, There has been a steady decrease in the demand for paper for printing purposes from 46 million tons to 29 million tons by the year 2015 (Banku et al., 2016). In 1998, European advertising companies spent 57% of their budget in the printed media space and by 2014, it was down to 9% (Banku et al., 2016).

Over the year’s newspaper companies have begun to realize that the paper portion of the newspaper is less important than the news (Wade, 2012). News outlets had started to change their thinking to worry less about controlling the medium of delivery (the paper) and focus on the content they are delivering (the news) (Wade, 2012). This shift in thinking has helped save the newspaper industry.

Along with focusing more on their content, newspapers, now referred to as news outlets, also focus on appealing to the global audience, they could now reach over the Internet. It is worth noting that not all printed newspapers are gone. Some printed newspapers are created to service a specific niche of consumers (van der Burg & Van den Bulck, 2017). These niche groups could be from a specific industry, speak a nonstandard language in a foreign country, or be a subculture (van der Burg & Van den Bulck, 2017).  

References

Banku, A., Valdemara, K., Riga, & Latvia. (2016). Business scenario planning for declining industry.  Retrieved from https://www.riseba.lv/sites/default/files/inline-files/JBM_09.02_2016_11.pdf#page=14

Hiemstra, G. (2012). Scenario planning.  Retrieved from https://www.futurist.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ScenarioPlanning-Introduction-Copy.pdf

van der Burg, M., & Van den Bulck, H. (2017). Why are traditional newspaper publishers still surviving in the digital era? The impact of long-term trends on the Flemish newspaper industry’s financing, 1990–2014. Journal of Media Business Studies, 14(2), 82-115. doi:10.1080/16522354.2017.1290024

Wade, W. (2012). Chapter 3 – case studies: the real world Scenario Planning (pp. 68 – 81). Location: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.