Arts and Culture

Week 4: Transition to Modern Newspapers

The Internet and Journalism

The internet was originally used to create pages where content was constant; therefore, news sites were difficult to run and maintain. However, this also offered endless possibilities, allowing sites to reach a worldwide audience including those with a lower income. Sites could be updated endless times a day which meant that those with an internet connection were able to read the news as soon as it happened. The capabilities of the internet were refined into a far more dynamic structure that allowed information sharing between sites. Technologies like RSS (XML files containing articles and metadata) enabled the syndication of websites. This enabled readers to create custom sites from their favorite content, leading to unique collections of information. 


Online Journalism Becomes Free

As the internet continued to grow, so did online journalism. However, the biggest change was the ability to run a free newspaper. Although free, it’s still vital that the online journalism outlet is able to support itself financially, or make a small profit.

There are two ways in which a person can run an online news site for free, and both have their pros and cons. The first way is to use free tools, which usually come at some cost and don’t look professional. The other is to take advantage of revenue streams and fund a site that will hopefully cover its costs. Free tools make running a site completely free, but come with some terms that have to be accepted. For example, the site may have to carry advertisements that can’t be changed. Therefore, they aren’t the best for sites about politics. The tools also lack professionalism, meaning readers and search engines will tend to avoid it. Usually, the more popular a site using non-free tools becomes, the more expensive it becomes to run it, as costs are linked to the infrastructure (amount of pages design, etc). Nonetheless, advances in micro-payment technology have allowed this to change. The development of micro-payment technology allows small payments to be easily made online. Companies like Google have implemented advertising systems like AdSense that use this, so that any site can generate advertising revenue without having to chase down customers. 


The Decline of Mainstream Media

Newspaper sales have been in decline since the 1950s due to television news and the merging of newspapers into larger publications. Some also blame the increase in car ownership as this means that people are unable to read a paper on their daily commute. The merging of newspapers has created a wide variety of publications, many of which are extremely large and contain no relevant news. In fact, “the LA Times averages 123 daily and 512 pages on Sunday” (Sparkes, 2006). New mediums like blogs are causing a decrease in sales of traditional journalism. Coupled with this short term effect are the long term effects of cars, radio and television that have been a trend for the last 50 years. In other words, technology creates new forms of journalism and in doing so ends old forms. However, whenever a medium begins to decline, there is always another that will take its place. Despite this trend, not all mainstream media will disappear. For instance, some media is government-funded like the BBC, while others are innovative enough to maintain paper presence despite the advantages of new mediums. Furthermore, niche media will continue to exist due to its small, but loyal readers. Therefore, local papers will probably remain despite the advantages of moving to online publishing. 



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