Will Printed Newspapers Survive with Easy Online Access to News?

Print newspapers are struggling to survive as journalism can be better focused to the reader with online news services. What are the benefits of reading online?

What's In This Article

  1. Improved Search Results Provide Better Quality Articles Online
  2. Difference Between Online News and Printed Newspaper
  3. Reading News Online Instead of Newspaper
  4. Why Small-Town Newspapers Have an Advantage
  5. Comparison of Online and Local Print Newspapers

Most printed newspapers are struggling to compete with online publishing. The main impact is due to the technology available on the Internet that allows targeting the news, and the advertising, to its audience.

Among all the newspapers that are printed daily, there are numerous small town local newspapers.

Many small towns don't have adequate Internet Broadband to all homes and these customers need to get their local paper to keep abreast of events close to home.

Many small towns don't even have their own websites or they don't maintain them to keep information up to date. So local newspapers may have an advantage.

At least for now. Google provides local response to search. But this is only useful if people have Internet access.

Improved Search Results Provide Better Quality Articles Online

Google began changing the game in February 2011 with modifications to their search algorithm. They started with what’s known as the Panda Update. Once perfected, this is meant to deliver better quality results to searches. Then later, in 2012, they introduced the Penguin update to their search algorithm, which was focused on eliminating spammy content that offers no value to the reader.


Google also experimented with "Google Authorship Markup" that allows authors of online articles to build a reputation for all their written content.

This reputation affects the ranking of their articles based on acknowledged authority, which is determined by reader activity.

In 2011 Google also added the +1 button to register reader approval on articles they read online, another form of determining quality.

In January 2012 Google added “Search Plus Your World” so when one uses Google to get answers to questions, the search results will be specific to his or her own likes and interests.

Back to my discussion of newspapers. The point I was making is that print newspapers, especially local versions, will have to fight for their life. They will have to redefine their business strategy to compete with the latest technology of Internet Search.

Difference Between Online News and Printed Newspaper

The concept of online news sites that many old-time newspapers are experimenting with, is in vain. They let visitors read a few articles before blocking them and requiring a paid online subscription.

What they don’t understand is that people can simply go back to their favorite search engine and find links to other websites with the news they want to read.

And that brings up another point. Newspapers are full of unwanted extras. Sections that are of no interest to the subscriber that simply adds to the garbage dumps or has to be stored in piles waiting for the next recycling day.

People don't want to deal with that anymore. And with the technology we have today, they don't have to.

Printed newspapers started containing more unwanted content than what was desired. They have become too big and bulky. I read in the December 16, 2010 issue of the London Review of Books that the Sunday New York Times is so big that there were stories of paperboys throwing it and accidentally killing the family dog.

It’s easier to carry an iPad, Tablet, or even a smart phone, and get the news you want, rather than an entire newspaper that has articles you’re not at all interested in reading to begin with. Not to mention those inky hands when you’re done.

Reading News Online Instead of Newspaper

When one uses search engines they are looking for something specific. But when one reads a print newspaper, he or she may see an article title mentioning something interesting that catches attention.

Some people enjoy discovering the unexpected. But that happens online too. When I search for things online, I have to maintain a focus or else I go off on all sorts of tangents.

News is usually attainable faster online. It takes time to print a newspaper and deliver it. Many times people can't wait for a print newspaper to come out. They go to Google and search "latest news". Google is good at indexing important world news within seconds.

It really all boils down to preference and comfort level. Different people prefer one to the other for their own personal reasons. What might be an advantage for one person might be a disadvantage for another.

Why Small-Town Newspapers Have an Advantage

Many search engines use technology to deliver local related results with searches. But there are still some small towns without Internet access.

Although broadband Internet is slowly spreading to all corners of the world, many small towns are missing out on it because it’s not cost effective to wire up a town with broadband capabilities for a small population.

It’s expensive to bring fiber to each home when the homes are scattered few and far between.

Broadband Internet will penetrate small towns with low-cost access. This may eventually hurt small town newspapers.
Broadband Internet will penetrate small towns with low-cost access. This may eventually hurt small town newspapers. | Source

It is important for residents in rural areas to get information on local activities. If the Internet is not accessible then the technology Google and other search engines are creating will not be available.

However, Broadband Internet is already penetrating small towns and will provide low-cost access to each home. This may eventually hurt small town newspapers too.

Progress is not happening everywhere, though. So it’s possible that local printed newspapers in those locations will continue to survive because they are desperately needed.

But will that change?

Comparison of Online and Local Print Newspapers

There are new technologies that make it cheaper and easier to connect rural residents. For example, a new technology called LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution, is an easy method of providing over-the-air broadband at speeds comparable to fiber.

WiFi is another method that cuts costs, and can be used to share broadband among several subscribers in a close area.

As the cost of the equipment decreases, and new technology for delivering broadband to the home becomes available, small towns in rural areas will have high speed Internet access someday.

And that is happening already. At least two companies are building out their LTE networks to provide wireless ISP, which eliminates the need to run fiber to each home.

Clearwire, now known as Clear, is aiming for nationwide coverage by 2017 with Clear, their 4G service. Stelera Wireless is another company providing similar solutions to rural areas.

Based on lower cost of broadband and new technology, print newspapers will have to work hard for survival. Even in small towns. Times are changing and everything is moving over to online activities. It’s more accessible, even in rural areas these days. In addition, it’s easier for readers to find the news they want to have at their fingertips.

© 2012 Glenn Stok

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Comments 16 comments

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma

It's also generational as well. Older people are used to reading the paper and find it hard to switch. I know some senior citizens who don't have computers or smart phones so the newspaper or television are still their main source of current events.

Rural areas will hang on to the print versions for a much longer time than cities.

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

The Chilliwack Progress is well over 100 years old. It started in 1891. We also have The Chilliwack Times. These deal only with local Fraser Valley news or provincial politics that will affect us. I read them both. They come out twice a week.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

Pamela ~ Very good points you added. My Aunt continued to read the New York Times until she dies at 98. So I know what you mean. I guess it will take till the next generation before it gone for good. But your comment about rural areas indicates that print media may have some hope for survival. At least as long as the Internet is not available. Thanks for stopping by. Always a pleasure to include your insightful comments.

FloraBreenRobison ~ It's fun to read local news about other areas. I just checked out Fraser Valley. Google gives a bunch of sites with local news and events in your charming town in Vancouver. Sounds like a place I'd like to visit with Community related fairs, festivals, parades, art studio tours, plays and other recreation events.

somethgblue profile image

somethgblue 4 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

Actually having lived in Big Cities most of my life those are the papers that seem to be hit the hardest.

Now that I live in a small town (less than thirty thousand) it is imperative to get the local paper to keep abreast of the local doings. Most small towns don't have websites or if they do they are poorly run and updated.

So they seem to do better, being in the graphic arts industry for thirty years has kept me abreast of the situation.

I find my small town newspaper works better for me than the internet for local activities.

alexandra-t profile image

alexandra-t 4 years ago

I still prefer reading real newspapers to reading them online...nothing beats getting to flip the pages! =)

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

somethgblue ~ Thanks for including your knowledge of small towns. It's useful to have people, such as you, who live in small towns to give their feedback on this issue. It helps make a complete picture of the situation. Internet service is simply not available everywhere. And local newspapers still have a chance of survival in those location.

alexandra-t ~ I have to agree with you. My eyes sometimes get tired reading on a computer screen.

somethgblue profile image

somethgblue 4 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

That is why it is so important to break up the text into small paragraphs such as you have done, our eyes aren't used to reading with light shining through the words.

FGual profile image

FGual 4 years ago from USA

One reason they are disappearing aside from the online invasion, is their less than fair and balanced portrayal of the news. Their political bias will sneak into their reporting, thus alienating some readers. The New York Times is definitely an example, and my local Tampa Bay Times is as well. Don't know if they are related.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

somethgblue ~ Yes indeed. I find spacing out the paragraphs helps a great deal with reader retention. Thanks for your insightful comment.

FGual ~ Some newspapers are better than others. But I agree with you that there are many papers that apply their biased attitudes. One has to know if there is bias behind what they read. But this is the same thing if you read something online too. I appreciate your insight with this. Thanks for commenting.

Jlbowden profile image

Jlbowden 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

Hi Glenn:

Interesting article about online vs. print newspapers. I believe in the theory that you can teach an old dog new tricks only if the old dog wants to learn new tricks. So in essence many older folks are basically set in their ways and still like to get ink all over their hands. However I like the idea of being able to read the New York Times at no charge via my laptop. And it doesn't cost me a thing. Our modern generation is accustomed to reading literature...books newpapers etc... online and I believe they will continue with the transition. And with the nook readers and other e-readers such as the Kindle, who wants to thumb through an oversized paper like the NY times if they don't have to. And I believe you're right in assuming that the newspapers of today will eventually be nothing but paper dinosaurs of the past. Besides are landfills are already filled with enough refuse-eliminating paper newspapers will only cut down further on wasted space. Thanks for an interesting read which I also voted up.


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

Jim, I guess paper, for one thing, doesn't fill landfills. Paper is recycled quite well these days. But I do have to agree with you that reading the news on, say, a Kindle, is easier than dealing with bulk and ink that rubs off. Thanks for your insight and for the vote up.

Larry Wall 4 years ago

Having worked for a small town newspaper and having read a lot of news off the internet, it is apparent that the large metropolitan newspaper is in trouble. The same could be said for television stations that have their own news departments.

The defining word is local.

In the small paper where I worked for 16 years cover the four local high schools sporting events, we published the honor rolls, we ran pictures of club activities.

As a reporter I cover the city council, parish government, school board, drainage districts, etc. Our readers knew what was going on in their community and they still cannot find that level of content on the web.

We wrote feature stories about individuals. We provided a vehicle that small advertisers could afford.

The internet is a great tool and has certainly changed the face of news--not all for the better. I cringe when I log onto some newspaper sites and I have to sit through an ad. We did not put ads on our front page.

We ran the engagement announcements, the wedding stories, the birth announcements and the obituaries. We ran community announcements about bake sales, church fairs, etc. You could read the paper while waiting to get a haircut, or while your oil was being changed and yes you could use it for bird cage lining and to wrap fish.

I think the smaller papers will learn to survive. They are forming chains. There are few independents. They are consolidating printing operations and coordinating coverage of events, but there is still something on your front lawn every day that will be about your community.

I do not want to carry a Kindle or tablet with me all the time. My phone fits in my pocket and keeps me informed well enough until I can get home and watch the news--after I read the paper.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

Larry Wall, thank you for that detailed commentary. It's important to hear the viewpoint of someone in the business, such as you. Thanks for stopping by.

imatellmuva profile image

imatellmuva 4 years ago from Somewhere in Baltimore

While I haven't read a newspaper in quite some time; I do miss sitting down and perusing through the paper.

While an online news source can provide relevant content on multiple topics it still, and in many ways does not replace that a newspaper is the preferred medium (for me anyway).

The main reason I rarely read the paper now is because the cost has skyrocketed, and the newspaper itself is merely a few pages; hardly worth the cost of the print.

Many people, including myself are opting for free local publications of news, so we can still feel paper, flip a page, finish a crossword, read the obits, local ads, etc.; all while sipping a nice cup of coffee.

alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

It's a vicious circle. People are reading printed papers less, so they get thinner. Because they get thinner, you're less inclined to read them. Voting this Up and Interesting.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

imatellmuva ~ Thanks for your insightful comment. That is indeed a problem with some printed newspapers. Cost of printed papers is not in line with online media, which makes most of their money from ads.

alocsin ~ Looks like a common feeling among a lot of people that the papers are getting thinner. You have also added important insight to this. Thanks for stopping by. Your vote was also much appreciated.

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