Virtually Perfect Media: Evolution of the Newspaper

Sarah Garrett, Staff Writer

The decline of physical newspapers and the rise of online news has slowly been diminishing the already fragile print publishing industry. According to The New York Times, between 2004 and 2015, more than 20% of newspapers closed temporarily or permanently. According to The Atlantic, between 2000 and 2015, advertising revenue for print newspapers fell from $60 billion to $20 billion. This long-anticipated and gradual decline has affected newspapers, reporters, and readers alike.  Though this change may seem negative, the adaptation of the industry is actually both beneficial and necessary to accommodate for this century’s shift to digital media.

When print newspapers were first put into use, it was an easy way for people to get reliable information. Many of the first printed newspapers wrote about issues like war and politics, as well as local events, that remain pertinent today. 

Since access to digital media has increased, the need for physical sources of information has become less necessary. With the introduction of the television, then the internet, and now cell phones that provide instant access to almost all information, the need for a paper newspaper has decreased substantially. 

According to the Pew Research Center, 85% of American adults own a smartphone. This access to the internet makes online news sources easy to find, and is a cheaper adaptation that helps readers stay informed now that buying print copies is no longer necessary. Major newspapers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post have all adapted to this change. These newspapers have websites to read articles online and social media accounts with news headlines and photos, making access to information easier. 

According to NBC, The New York Times’ Sunday paper costs $5 in New York and $6 in the remaining 49 states. The New York Times’ basic online subscription, however, costs $1 a week, and gives readers daily access to articles instantly. Online articles are cheaper to read than printed articles, making an online newspaper more cost conscious and accessible to low-income people. 

Additionally, many articles can be read for free online without the need to purchase any newspaper’s subscription. The internet is home to many articles from various credible newspapers around the world, such as The Texas Tribune, The Chicago Tribune, and The Portland Press Herald. Online-only news sites like Buzzfeed News exist as well. This adaptation of the news industry is making articles more accessible, allowing more people to be informed about important news, and sustaining the need for interesting articles. 

Online articles are also more environmentally friendly than a paper newspaper. Though paper newspapers, specifically, biodegrade in approximately two to three weeks, deforestation, which is necessary to provide paper products, is still a process that harms the planet. According to The Conversation, 36% of timber in the United States is used for paper. While paper products are often recycled, deforestation still has to occur to create those products in the first place.

However, not all people are given the luxury of the internet. According to Pew Research Center, 43% of adults with lower income (less than $30,000 a year) do not have internet access at home and 41% don’t own a laptop or desktop computer. There are also people who just prefer to read paper newspapers, or are journalists or printers. The downfall of the newspaper industry, for these people, is an alarming event that is slowly harming their source of income and information. According to The New York Times, in 2020 an estimated 37,000 news media company employees were fired, had their pay reduced, or were furloughed. Fortunately, the print newspaper is not gone yet and will likely continue to exist into the near future, especially as a means of conveying local news.

The decline of the newspaper industry is forcing newspapers to adapt in ways that are making news easier to access, cheaper to access, and more environmentally friendly to produce. These inevitable adaptations are leading to a brighter future for news, and the modern newspaper will continue to rise, with traditional paper newspapers changed but not forgotten.