By Steve Outing
Here’s a little prediction that’s been spinning around my head lately. I’ll release it here on my blog to leave room in there for something else.
As newspapers (especially the larger metros, which face the worst declines) continue to lose staff, lose ad revenues, and in general get lower in quality, their loyal older readers will get fed up. Flashy designs (like those at Tribune Co. papers) will be seen as merely masking the decline of the product, and we’ll see newspapers’ core older audience of print readers and subscribers flee in significant numbers.
Of course, that demographic (I’m talking mostly about over-45) will still want news, but the quality decline of print newspapers will force them to look elsewhere. The decimation of print editions will move older news consumers — many of whom have resisted the siren call of digital news — to adapt to the digital media lifestyle, at last.
Newspaper companies of course will have the opportunity to retain these older readers. But they’ll need to put most of their resources into improving digital news delivery and innovating further there, rather than focusing majority effort on modernizing the print edition.
I’d love to get the reaction of Tribune Co. folks to this prediction, since they seem to be investing so much into resurrecting their print franchises. (We haven’t heard as much about Tribune’s digital innovations, so I’m curious to learn more about their thinking there.)
What do you think? Am I being too pessimistic? Or do you think this is how the newspaper situation will play out in the next year or two?