Technology

Berkowitz: Recent innovations in newspaper industry further reflect need to innovate

At this point, the newspaper industry has been in trouble for quite some time and has only one choice to make: adapt or die. Newspapers are being sold left and right; advertising revenues are down and readership is declining every day.
Instead of blaming technology for its current downfall, the newspaper industry needs to start embracing it.

Just a few weeks ago, The Washington Post started to show signs of innovation. It has started to try out a visually driven news interface called Topicly. Essentially, Topicly sorts the best stories from newspapers based on the number of updates and then displays them as images across a page. When a reader clicks on a topic, say, for example, the government shutdown, they are then led to all the news stories the Post has published on the topic.

Because of this, Topicly makes the site faster and more user friendly, which makes news consumption easier for the average working citizen who is pressed for time.

Following suit, The Boston Globe, another struggling newspaper, has started experimenting with a Twitter-powered news aggregator called 61Fresh. This method makes content strategy much more defined. 61Fresh gathers tweets primarily based on content originating from sites and services that are of interest to Boston residents.

These improvements do not end with interface and new media.

The Santa Rose Press Democrat in California has pushed the limit for innovation even further. The newspaper has developed its own internal digital media agency. The agency helps advertising clients transition to a digital format.

This sector of the paper generated approximately 25 percent of digital revenue in 2012 and is expected to see a 60 percent growth this year, according to PaidContent.org. The agency’s digital director said it was important for the department to “have a start-up feel to it and not be swallowed by the older Press Democrat brand.”

The consequences for those media outlets that refuse to change are dire. The current state of newspapers is already in disarray.

According to MediaPost reporter Erik Sass, in 2012, newspaper-publishing employment dropped 40 percent in the last 10 years. Meanwhile, IBISWorld ranked newspaper publishing as the fifth fastest dying industry in the country.

In addition, futurist Ross Dawson, who predicted the social media revolution in his 2002 book “Living Networks,” believes newspapers in the United States will not exist in 2017, the same year current SU freshmen are expected to graduate.

These predictions have scared off many people in the industry.

This past August, The New York Times sold The Boston Globe for $70 million dollars. Similarly, The Washington Post was unloaded a few months ago when the legendary Graham family admitted it could not see a future without further staff cuts and profit losses.

The current trends in the industry are daunting. The newspaper business is failing because it is stuck in the past. Editors and CEOs are focusing too much on content and traditional journalism.

This aspect of the newspaper industry will always be at the core. However, right now, a focus toward the digital side of the business and new media needs to take precedent. In today’s rapidly paced society, people are using their phones and tablets to read the news through social media and apps.

Nowadays, newsreaders are more focused than ever on the ways in which news is presented. Outlets should always be asking themselves: How can we help readers find stories that are short, fascinating and to the point?

While questions like this still remain partially unanswered, people should stay optimistic about the future. The demand for daily news and good journalistic writing has not deterred. People are definitely still reading; the difference is the manner in which they read that has changed.

Bram Berkowitz is a senior advertising and entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises major. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at bsberkow@syr.edu.

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