Tide Of Times Dynamics Of Daily Newspapers

P . Kharel

As a daily diet to the brain, newspaper sales have silently stagnated in the last decade. New mastheads do hit the newsstands every now and then but the news dailies and magazines skate on extremely thin and melting ice. Readers’ appetite for news has not declined; only avenues for information have soared to heights unimaginable two decades ago. Even the older generations might begin losing their interest given their fading zeal for the contents the media dish out. Will new generations lose interest in newspapers?

There are ten national dailies serving Britain’s population of 65 million. Tabloids like The Sun and the Daily Mirror sold more than 4 million copies in the 1970s through the 1980s. Today The Sun sells 1.6 million a day and its rival Mirror even less. The United States is described as a nation without any “national” news daily, perhaps with the exception of the USA Today.

In contrast, there are nearly a score of “national” dailies brought out from Kathmandu Valley to serve 28 million people, mostly illiterate or barely able to read, write and meet two square meals. In India, not even New Delhi boasts of so many national dailies. Naya Patrika, managing to attract attention in the crowd of “national” broadsheet dailies, plans expansion in the ensuing months. Nagarik and The Republica are the last two dailies launched with massive investments at one go, with Nagarik just about registering its revenue collection to lift itself above the red. However, Gorkhapatra is officially the largest volume of revenue fetching media outlet followed by Kantipur that claims by far the large circulation figures.

Is the newspaper in Nepal, therefore, doomed to a point of no return? Whatever the precise answer, daily papers need to review and revise their content policy. Otherwise, they are doomed to fade away as financially unfeasible.

In India, whose first newspaper arrived 120 years prior to Nepal’s Gorkhapatra, the overall picture is one of boom—so far. India’s most popular Hindi newspaper Dainik Bhashkar has a circulation of 3.57 million copies a day. On average, regional newspapers are likely to register a 12 per cent annual growth for at least well into the next decade. There are 82,000 newspapers, 33,000 of them in Hindi—the language spoken by 41 per cent of that country’s 1.25 billion people.

Competition

The 1990s were the golden decade for Nepali newspapers, and the stagnation in the new century coincided with the introduction of radio and TV in the private sector too. The emergence of several hundred online news services added to the competition. A survey by a prominent American research institute last July indicated that only five per cent of Americans in the age group of 18 to 29 read newspapers compared with 48 per cent in the over-65 age group, and only 32 per cent of Americans trust the news media. This might have some food for thought to Nepalis as well.

Multiplication of media choices raises the prospects of access, provided it is prompt, easy and extensive. Launching a daily paper is a very rare event in successfully run democracies. Elsewhere, including Nepal, newspapers come and go, with hardly a flutter. Nepal’s case is one with too many papers, too much irrelevant contents, too few voices and too little variety but competing for a very limited readership and advertising market. This clearly calls for the daily papers to reinvent themselves for avoiding the alternative of evaporation.

Two events in diametrically opposition direction occurred in Britain in 2016. First, The New Day folded in 10 weeks after its launch when sales dropped to 40,000 copies a day as against the target of selling 200,000 copies. Then The Independent closed shop for good after a 30-year presence in the British printscape. In its concluding edition, it asserted history will be the judge of its “bold transition…as an example for other newspapers around the world to follow”. That was quite an audacity for a failed paper to claim a model for the rest of the world too.

Last year, The New York Times suffered a slump in ad revenues, posting a loss of $8.3 million in the quarter, narrower than the $ 14.3 million deficit in the same period the previous year. The newspaper announced that it would invest $50 million into efforts to boost digital readership and revenue outside the United States.

Now back to newspapers in Nepal. Are they on serious notice? Is the daily paper dying? Is investment in a daily paper a giant gamble or a big boost? These are questions that might tempt people to begin outlining obituaries of the newspaper industry, notably of the daily variety. With more than 900 regular publications, including 125 daily newspapers, 500 FM radio broadcasting on air, nearly three dozen TV channels and several hundred online news portals formally registered, plus the vast internet reach for news and views from all over the world, competition for the attracting audience attention is enormous. And the advertising pie is too small to accommodate them all to even a minimum satisfactory level.

Credit & credibility

Times change; so do tastes and trends. People do not just stick to a particular daily newspaper just because it is relatively old. Like food, it has to be fresh and interesting to enhance and sustain audience interest and loyalty. Merely being an old newspaper does not hold much water.

Had it been the case, many of the newspapers edited basically prior to 1990 by some of the names hailed so profusely by media writers and commentators have gone out circulation.

The dynamics of media consumption are changing. Social media and broadcast media, particularly the convergence model, have made information accessible at the press of a button. They provide new avenues and opportunities. But people want reports and comments from a process and procedure that convinces them of objective and impartial. The youth readers are to be looked forward to with contents that cater to their interests. Over dose of political reporting does not attract their attention. Nor does the rampant partisan press earn the vocabulary and respect of professionalism.

In a news media house, the balance sheet should not take undue precedence over its publication’s content. Earlier, the elite and news professionals were at the forefront; today party and business take the driver’s seat. Such attitude sidelines the motto that news is fast, first and factual. Readership will migrate to hourly news bulletins, constant news flashes on TV and radio air round the clock. Constant search for something new not carried by others is the key to a successful story. Same stories and same patterns without depth and interesting detail precipitate the slump.

 

  1. Kharel

As a daily diet to the brain, newspaper sales have silently stagnated in the last decade. New mastheads do hit the newsstands every now and then but the news dailies and magazines skate on extremely thin and melting ice. Readers’ appetite for news has not declined; only avenues for information have soared to heights unimaginable two decades ago. Even the older generations might begin losing their interest given their fading zeal for the contents the media dish out. Will new generations lose interest in newspapers?

There are ten national dailies serving Britain’s population of 65 million. Tabloids like The Sun and the Daily Mirror sold more than 4 million copies in the 1970s through the 1980s. Today The Sun sells 1.6 million a day and its rival Mirror even less. The United States is described as a nation without any “national” news daily, perhaps with the exception of the USA Today.

In contrast, there are nearly a score of “national” dailies brought out from Kathmandu Valley to serve 28 million people, mostly illiterate or barely able to read, write and meet two square meals. In India, not even New Delhi boasts of so many national dailies. Naya Patrika, managing to attract attention in the crowd of “national” broadsheet dailies, plans expansion in the ensuing months. Nagarik and The Republica are the last two dailies launched with massive investments at one go, with Nagarik just about registering its revenue collection to lift itself above the red. However, Gorkhapatra is officially the largest volume of revenue fetching media outlet followed by Kantipur that claims by far the large circulation figures.

Is the newspaper in Nepal, therefore, doomed to a point of no return? Whatever the precise answer, daily papers need to review and revise their content policy. Otherwise, they are doomed to fade away as financially unfeasible.

In India, whose first newspaper arrived 120 years prior to Nepal’s Gorkhapatra, the overall picture is one of boom—so far. India’s most popular Hindi newspaper Dainik Bhashkar has a circulation of 3.57 million copies a day. On average, regional newspapers are likely to register a 12 per cent annual growth for at least well into the next decade. There are 82,000 newspapers, 33,000 of them in Hindi—the language spoken by 41 per cent of that country’s 1.25 billion people.

Competition

The 1990s were the golden decade for Nepali newspapers, and the stagnation in the new century coincided with the introduction of radio and TV in the private sector too. The emergence of several hundred online news services added to the competition. A survey by a prominent American research institute last July indicated that only five per cent of Americans in the age group of 18 to 29 read newspapers compared with 48 per cent in the over-65 age group, and only 32 per cent of Americans trust the news media. This might have some food for thought to Nepalis as well.

Multiplication of media choices raises the prospects of access, provided it is prompt, easy and extensive. Launching a daily paper is a very rare event in successfully run democracies. Elsewhere, including Nepal, newspapers come and go, with hardly a flutter. Nepal’s case is one with too many papers, too much irrelevant contents, too few voices and too little variety but competing for a very limited readership and advertising market. This clearly calls for the daily papers to reinvent themselves for avoiding the alternative of evaporation.

Two events in diametrically opposition direction occurred in Britain in 2016. First, The New Day folded in 10 weeks after its launch when sales dropped to 40,000 copies a day as against the target of selling 200,000 copies. Then The Independent closed shop for good after a 30-year presence in the British printscape. In its concluding edition, it asserted history will be the judge of its “bold transition…as an example for other newspapers around the world to follow”. That was quite an audacity for a failed paper to claim a model for the rest of the world too.

Last year, The New York Times suffered a slump in ad revenues, posting a loss of $8.3 million in the quarter, narrower than the $ 14.3 million deficit in the same period the previous year. The newspaper announced that it would invest $50 million into efforts to boost digital readership and revenue outside the United States.

Now back to newspapers in Nepal. Are they on serious notice? Is the daily paper dying? Is investment in a daily paper a giant gamble or a big boost? These are questions that might tempt people to begin outlining obituaries of the newspaper industry, notably of the daily variety. With more than 900 regular publications, including 125 daily newspapers, 500 FM radio broadcasting on air, nearly three dozen TV channels and several hundred online news portals formally registered, plus the vast internet reach for news and views from all over the world, competition for the attracting audience attention is enormous. And the advertising pie is too small to accommodate them all to even a minimum satisfactory level.

Credit & credibility

Times change; so do tastes and trends. People do not just stick to a particular daily newspaper just because it is relatively old. Like food, it has to be fresh and interesting to enhance and sustain audience interest and loyalty. Merely being an old newspaper does not hold much water.

Had it been the case, many of the newspapers edited basically prior to 1990 by some of the names hailed so profusely by media writers and commentators have gone out circulation.

The dynamics of media consumption are changing. Social media and broadcast media, particularly the convergence model, have made information accessible at the press of a button. They provide new avenues and opportunities. But people want reports and comments from a process and procedure that convinces them of objective and impartial. The youth readers are to be looked forward to with contents that cater to their interests. Over dose of political reporting does not attract their attention. Nor does the rampant partisan press earn the vocabulary and respect of professionalism.

In a news media house, the balance sheet should not take undue precedence over its publication’s content. Earlier, the elite and news professionals were at the forefront; today party and business take the driver’s seat. Such attitude sidelines the motto that news is fast, first and factual. Readership will migrate to hourly news bulletins, constant news flashes on TV and radio air round the clock. Constant search for something new not carried by others is the key to a successful story. Same stories and same patterns without depth and interesting detail precipitate the slump.

 

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