I must be one of those young souls newspaper publishers can’t seem to work out. I obsessively check numerous Australian and International news websites but still can’t live without my daily dead tree newspaper fix. Why, if I can access everything online for free would I bother spending money, that I’m often pressed to find, on buying a newspaper?
To me it comes down to quality and authority. With such an array of information out there on the worldwide web, I assume that only the most important and well written news is actually published. My generation is no doubt both the most informed and least informed ever to lay eyes on a newspaper. A newspaper lays out all the news, whether relevant to me or not, and brings my attention to stories that would otherwise go un-clicked when I visit its homepage.
The large bold font screams out at me. I may not read past the headline, but at least I’m doing that. When multitasking on the web, as many of my friends do, I will only pay attention to what is of absolute importance to me. It is, in fact, all about me, when talking about online.
Perhaps that is why in previous weeks, my group focused its attention on the individual consumer when talking about the future of online news. Targeting specific audiences means that advertisers are kept happy – something that seems to be getting increasingly hard to do. It’d be silly to think that doing this would result in better journalism. If anything it would see real news and its marketability put to the ‘clicks test’; how many clicks are required to fund a serious news story?
I’m sure that news media organisations know the answer to this, but they’re keeping mum on the knowledge so that entertainment and lifestyle stories don’t take priority over what the news is supposed to be about.
What continues to surprise me is the lack of communication between news media organisations and today’s youth. The Sydney Morning Herald, for instance, offers a subscription for $30 for students, and every so often sends out a newsletter detailing odd pieces of information about its Education Program. The last promotion involved students with the subscription receiving movie tickets for every one of their friends they managed to convince to sign up for the year. I found the promotion rather odd. An online music or movie download would have made more sense, considering I know so few of my friends ever go to the cinemas anymore. It was as if SMH was trying to remind students of a time long ago, when people used to go to the cinemas to receive their weekly news updates. The gimmick certainly didn’t work on me.
Buying newspapers is a habit. For most it’s a public transport habit. Thousands of Sydney’s youth travel on public transport to get to school and university every day. I recall my first few years of high school. One bus, two trains and an hour and half later I was desperate for anything that wasn’t school related. If news media organisations had any sense they’d introduce cheaper newspaper subscriptions to students as young as Year 7. Year 7’s pay $10, Year 8’s $15 and so on, with a flat fee of $30 for Years 11 and 12. Not only would students then be reading the paper, but their families would too.
In these economic times, had it not been for my subscription, I can see no way I would be purchasing a newspaper every day. In the eyes of many newspapers have now become luxury items. In order for individuals to see them as necessities again, news media need to open up channels of communication between themselves and tomorrow’s buyers. It is no longer about now, it’s about the future. Finding out what future generations want from their news today would save vast amounts of time and money tomorrow, and it’d most definitely be easier than trying to figure out why youth like me, continue to buy newspapers. We’re still struggling with that question ourselves.