It’s become the conventional wisdom for people to say that newspapers are dying. That’s the common understanding whether you work in the industry or have only a fleeting interest in the subject. The only problem: As with a lot of conventional wisdom, it’s not true.
I’ve recently come across two articles that bolster my seemingly radical assertion.
The first, published June 21 by the New York Times, is datelined Tokyo, and reports on the state of the newspaper business in Japan. The verdict is that printed newspapers are alive and well there, remaining the medium of choice for Japanese people to get their news.
"For a variety of reasons, cultural as well as economic, the digital revolution has yet to wreak the same havoc on the news media here that it has in the United States and most other advanced countries," reporter Martin Fackler writes, noting that Japan’s largest newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, is also the world’s largest, with a daily circulation of 10 million. (To put that figure in perspective, the daily circulation of the New York Times, for example, is about 1 million.)
Fackler notes that OhmyNews.com, a popular citizen journalism site in South Korea, "flopped" when it tried to replicate its formula in Japan.
The other article, appearing in the June 12 issue of The Economist magazine, is headlined, "The Strange Survival of Ink." The gist of the article is that the global recession has had little serious effect on newspapers in countries such as Germany and Brazil, while American "newspapers have cut their way out of crisis."
There’s no question that constant change is the new and permanent mode of operation in the newspaper business. People are interested in getting their news and information in different ways today, and newspapers must adapt. But it’s way too easy, simple and definitive to say that newspapers are "dying." That’s something like saying that GM’s financial troubles mean that people are giving up on driving cars, or that BP’s Gulf disaster is going to eliminate oil drilling.