Will Social Media Save The Newspaper Industry?

by David Finch |
David Finch
David Finch

One thing I could guarantee growing up in a small Midwestern farming community was that in our house there would always be two daily newspapers and RC cola. The newspaper for our family was the door into another world. It contained entry into distant lands, humor, games and even advice. It sparked conversations and influenced our view on the world. It shaped our politics and brought us closer to our heroes. It was more than a news channel it was a daily experience.

That daily experience has influenced the way that I consume the news. It’s very common for me to receive 2-3 newspapers a day, not to mention the global papers that I read online. There is a difference how I approach the two: The hard copy is a daily event. The online version is nothing more than a task – scouring for facts and ideas.

Will it be the Kindle?
On Wednesday, Amazon released their latest version of the Kindle that many are touting as the device that will save the newspaper. Larger screen, more memory, sharper images and text. It’s being branded as the perfect device for reading magazines and newspapers. It is also being pitched as a greener way to consume information. While all the things mentioned above are true, there’s one thing the Kindle can’t replace and that is the user experience.

It will take more than Twitter updates?
The latest trend is for newspapers to “tweet” their headlines that point their Twitter followers to their online articles. It’s very common to see headlines, but no conversation between the newspaper and the follower. To the newspaper industry, it’s nothing more than a broadcasting tool that announces the latest story. It’s an old idea in a new car trying to take you to the same old place. While I follow many news outlets on Twitter, I seldom click on their links, unless a friend has referred it to me.

Woody Lewis, social media strategist and web architect listed 10 ways newspapers are using social media to save their industry in a recent blog post at Mashable.com Here are a few ideas he mentions:

  • Creating online events to attract readers
  • Promoting and monetizing user generated content
  • Story-based communities
  • Collaborative outsourced news services
  • Customized delivery

While newspapers are stopping the presses and letting go of staff, there are those that are trying to incorporate some of the strategies that Woody mentions. However, in my opinion I think you’ll see more newspapers close their doors when they don’t see the return as quickly as anticipated.

The general pressure from within the newspaper industry is the loss of subscriptions, as well as advertising dollars. While I seldom hear anything in regards to the reader, there is plenty being said about the loss of revenue and how it is affecting the industry at large. It’s a race against time and a quest for more dollars.

It will take more than social media to save the newspaper.

Recreating the user experience
The day the newspaper industry recreates the user experience will be the day the newspaper is once again the talk of the town. If it is just looking for new channels then the future is grim, because I can find the news anywhere. The reason I read the newspaper is not because what it contains, but how it makes me feel and the memories that it invokes.  It connects me with my past while I read about the daily events.

Perhaps, the newspaper as we know it must die, not because its content isn’t relevant, or its attempts to use social media has failed, but because the consumer no longer identifies with it.

In my opinion, it’s just a matter of time, but until then I can guarantee you can find me every weekend with a cup of coffee, the New York Times, and my favorite jazz artists in the background.

What are your thoughts? Are you still reading newspapers? Do you think social media can save the day? If you had a chance to advise your favorite newspaper, what would you suggest?

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About the Author

David Finch