The ever changing consumption of media

Even with print editions of newspapers available for use, many Americans chose to use online sources instead.

Posted by Lauren Horsch

Drake University is one of those places where I see more people reading a tangible newspaper than an online edition.  Newspapers are strewn about tables in the buildings around campus.

Yet, a large amount of the media my peers and I consume come from sources on the Internet. There isn’t an hour in the day when one of the many newspapers I follow on Twitter updates with a new headline or with breaking news.

The news cycle of the 1950s and 60s is no more. Now, the media comes at readers on an almost minute-by-minute basis, which can be frightening and exhilarating. Every time I go to check my Twitter feed a new story is posted. Every time I go to the Des Moines Register Online, there is a new headline on the home page.

According to a Pew Research study released Sept. 12, 2010, more people in the United States are consuming media online than ever before.

While this doesn’t surprise me, it’s still worth mentioning that according to the same study, local newspapers are doing just fine.

In fact, Tom Rosenstiel, the director of the Pew Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism said in an interview with National Public Radio this was mainly due to advertisement revenue.

“…Little advertisers, the mom-and-pop shops around town, they don’t have websites…” said Rosenstiel during the interview.

After spending the past three summers working at a local newspaper, I understand the need for local media. While it has a Twitter page and a website, its target audience is still reading the print edition.

So, while local newspapers are just fine, other large daily papers are cutting staff writers almost monthly. In October 2009, the New York Times announced that it would cut 100 staff writers. This is a scary notion for me to deal with since I will soon be entering the realm of print journalism. My big question is: Will there be room in the newsroom for me?

Not to worry though, newspapers are still being read.

According to the Pew study, 26 percent of Americans said  they had read a newspaper in the past day. Yet, that statistic falls to eight percent once the age group reaches the under-30 crowd.

So, why aren’t students taking advantage of campus readership program? Are newspapers avoiding the under-30 audience? More importantly, how can newspapers cater to the under-30 crowd?

Is it because the newspapers are too bulky or leave ink on one’s hands? Is it because we’re too busy to stoop down and grab one from the rack?

Maybe I’m just a purist and prefer my news on paper, but that doesn’t mean I don’t thrive on media outlets on the Internet (for the sake of transparency, I do use online media outlets).

Is the culture of preferring interactive, online media going to continue, or is it going to eventually plummet and return to the days of the 1950s? At the moment, my personal belief is that it unfortunately will not change, but our consumption of media will become more concise, and instead of turning to three different media outlets for news, we will focus on one place (whether it be Twitter, Facebook or a website) to find out what is happening in the world.


9 responses to “The ever changing consumption of media

  1. Lauren, it makes me a little sad reading this. I’m right there with your purist thoughts, I would much rather read in print than over the internet. In fact, I’m constantly stating (under my breath) how much I hate the internet, but the truth of the matter is that it’s getting more and more prevalent.

    I was one of those kids in high school that was the last to get Facebook and then once I did get it, I hardly ever used it except to look at photos. I once got so sick of it (Junior year) that I got rid of it completely for that whole year. So far, I have been dragging my feet to online news sources, but I’m starting to realize that I need to change with the times especially if I want a career in journalism.

    I hate to think that media is going completely online (especially since most studies show that people don’t actually read all the way through online articles, they just skim it) but it would appear that is the way of the future. I suppose we will have to embrace it.

  2. Americans are in a hurry. We have schedules, deadlines, and meetings. When we want something, it needs to be fast.

    The immediacy of news updates online is what makes it so attractive, especially to the under 30 crowd. That particular age group is so completely plugged in, anything is seen as an inconvenience to them if they can’t just “Google it.”

    I’m sure that as journalism students, we can all agree that the prediction of print media becoming extinct is a frightening thought. Personally, I think newspapers and magazines will be around for a while longer. There are people, like you, who religiously subscribe to magazines and enjoy sitting down with a cup of coffee to read the morning news. As you said, small town papers are essential to receive small town news.

    Don’t fret. Change is good, and usually for the better. At least they aren’t doing away with mass production of printing and resorting to Gutenberg’s printing press…

  3. As much as I love print media, we all know times are changing. As long as we learn the trade, continue to adapt, and embrace the move to the Internet though, I don’t think we necessarily have to worry about getting jobs.

    But there’s something so timeless and endearing about holding a newspaper in your hand and getting ink-stained fingers. I think it’s sad that more and more are going out of business, but the thing is–for our generation, anyway–we want immediate news, and no matter what newspapers do to stay afloat, they can’t compete with social media like Twitter. It’s really a generational thing, and I don’t know that there will be newspapers around when we have grandkids.

  4. I agree with Jeff – I love getting ink stains on my hands after reading a newspaper. (I also like the way they smell, which may be a strange. Oh well.) It’s part of the whole newspaper-y, intellectual experience.

    Your post reminds me of the switch to e-books over traditional paper books, something that breaks my heart a little bit. I love books, and even though my purse always weighs a ton (there’s typically at least one book in it and I look like the girl from that Kindle commercial,) I can’t bring myself to even think about buying an e-reader. But I realize that I also need to adapt myself to the concept, because – although the medium is changing – books aren’t going anywhere. Americans still read, just different things and in different ways.

    This applies to newspapers as well: we need to be more versatile than ever before. It’s essential to our future success to learn how to enter and format articles for the web, as well as adapt to click-through patterns and the general A.D.D. caused by the internet.

    One of my biggest personal challenges lately is Twitter…I resisted for so long. But, especially now that I have an account, I’m really seeing how important it is as a mass news resource. I need to get on board, whether I like it or not – it’s important to be flexible in this industry.

  5. While readership of actual newspapers/magazines may be on the decline, I believe this is the result of print media taking on a new role. It is no longer the source for breaking news like electronic media, but rather a place to go to receive more in-depth stories and news. Also, newspapers will continue to play a vital role in small-towns and cities where a website is simply not feasible or practical.

    • Oops, I hit the enter button. Anyways, I believe general newspapers and magazines will enter a new, more specific role. Newspapers will become primarily an alternative to websites while magazines will become more specialized, such as Journals of Law, Political Science, et cetera, or perhaps like Home and Garden, where they have a specific focus.

  6. I enjoy having so many online news outlets immediately available to me to stay up to date on news throughout the day. However, I love reading a newspaper; a physical piece of paper in my hand to absorb news from.

    When people ask me what my future career plans are, I feel a little silly saying I want to work in a newsroom and write for a newspaper, in which my stories will be printed on paper and distributed. It is common knowledge that newspapers are going out of style, and I share the same fear as Lauren, that there won’t be room for me in the newsroom.

  7. It’s hard to imagine a world without print news such as newspapers and magazines. But it does seem inevitable that newspaper organizations as we know them today will be able to sustain and survive while competing against the Internet. All we can do is stay tuned and see.

  8. “There are only two kinds of print journalists: those who are unemployed and those who soon will be.” (I wish I could remember who said that.)

    You may have heard me say it before: Be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of two. (I also wish I could remember who said that first.)

    That is, know a little about everything: editing, photography, video, Web, social media, blogging, liveblogging, video streaming, graphic design, audio, slideshows, data journalism, interactive graphics, animation, etc. Then carve out a specialty. Be the master, the go-to person, for one of those multimedia skills. If we don’t teach it to you, then learn it yourself. (If you don’t take J102, Multimedia Journalism, you’re crazy.)

    The other of your masteries must be writing — writing for purpose and for audience.

    Our recent alumni who have landed a job after graduating, despite a crumbling economy and a freefall in the news and magazine industries, are evidence that this strategy works.

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