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The demise of newspapers, and what it means for digital media

man-hands-reading-boy

For the past 15 years or so, circulation figures for the national newspapers in the UK have been in steady decline, and slumping sales have resulted in the closure of many newspapers nationwide, and globally.

Today, another paper was axed. New Day, a daily newspaper launched by publisher Trinity Mirror, announced that it was to close on Friday just nine weeks after it launched. The paper had hoped to sell 200,000 copies a day, according to the BBC, but sales are reported to have fallen to around 40,000.

The paper’s downfall comes just months after the Independent and the Independent on Sunday closed after 30 years, in order to “transition into a digital-only future”.

Whilst most newspapers still generate the majority of revenue through print – because print advertising is still of far greater value than online advertising – the costs of operating a print publication are vast. The Guardian, for instance, announced earlier this year that it would have to shave 20% off its annual running costs of £268m in a bid to staunch operating losses within three years.

The costs involved in producing physical newspapers, and the decline in consumer interest of print publications, means that the UK’s biggest papers are putting more emphasis on digital journalism in the hope of getting younger people reading, and sharing, their content.

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Online-only Buzzfeed is often heralded as the ideal – creating content that is read by more than 280 million people worldwide and shared by millions across Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms, helping to bring in earnings of around US $167m last year for the website.

This drive for creating readable and shareable content has, however, resulted in the rise of ‘clickbait’ journalism. By sensationalising the headline of a story, the article is likely to gain more clicks, which means more traffic to the website, which means the website can charge companies more for advertising.

Ken Smith, chairman of the Welsh executive council of the National Union of Journalists, told the BBC last year that he had concerns about this type of journalism. “Without a doubt, there is a dumbing down in terms of content going on websites which does not bode well,” he said.

“Inevitably, if the criterion for including the story on the website is determined by the number of clicks, then we’re going down a very dangerous path. There’s going to be an emphasis on the trivial, rather than stories which require more considered reading.”

Whether you like clickbait stories or not, they’re definitely here to stay!

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