The Effects on Newspapers Due to the Internet

By Allen Bethea

Things change: new technology invariably brings new ways of doing things not possible or even imaginable in the past. For example, while we are blessed with a wealth of news sources on the Internet to choose from, we have become less reliant upon the traditional hard-copy newspaper as a major source of information about the world. For better or worse, the Internet has dramatically affected the way newspapers are read, run, financed and staffed.

Declining Readership

According to the Pew Research Center's "State of the News Media 2012" report, both the number of newspapers and the number of adults reading them have been dwindling steadily since 1999. This decline was true regardless of the race, income level or education of the individual they polled. The number of visitors to online news sites in 2011, however, grew by 17 percent over the previous year.

Declining Ad Revenue

The 2012 Pew Research Center report also shows that U.S. newspaper ad revenue from all sources has been in sharp decline since 2004 – even though income from subscriptions has remained relatively steady during the same period. While revenue from online sources has increased for some newspapers, it still lags behind that earned by Internet-only news and information providers. This has forced newspapers to look for new revenue streams like erecting "paywalls" which require users to pay for full access to news stories, or by using the legal system to force other news outlets to pay for copyrighted works they used.

Changes News Publishing Formats

In the 1997 book, "Netizens: On the History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet," authors Michael and Ronda Hauben wrote, "The very concept of news is being reinvented as people come to realize that they can provide the news about the environment they live in; that people can contribute their real-life conditions and this information proves worthwhile for others." In response, many newspapers are expanding their local coverage and encouraging reader feedback by adding multiple blogs and online magazines that target specific demographic groups with news and information tailored to their communities.

Cost Cutting

Like all other businesses, newspapers have to watch their financial bottom lines. When income declines, expenses have to be cut. This has meant an industry-wide reduction in newspaper staff through layoffs or forced retirements. According to the 2010 census conducted by the American Society of News Editors, the number of newsroom jobs has declined from a peak of 56,900 in 1990 to 41,600 in 2010; that's a decline of over 27 percent.