The future of the newspaper industry

I attended the Ontario Community Newspapers Association’s annual spring convention this past weekend in Toronto, which attracted speakers from across North America to discuss future trends in the publishing industry.
There is a great deal of interest in the industry as it is again moving through a rapid series of changes. The majority of the speakers delivered the message that newspapers had to change the historical reference of being publishers of the printed word on paper.
There is a proliferation of free dailies springing up in Canadian cities with urban transportation systems. They include Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver.
For the past several years, “Metro” and “24 Hours” have been available free to people traveling on the Toronto transit system. That model has since found its way onto transit systems in other larger urban centres in Canada.
This past week, Canwest launched five papers targeted at younger people. I didn’t see a copy, but publishers and writers who have have said it is much “edgier” in its outlook.
The stories are much shorter, and the copy focuses on issues facing people aged 19-26.
The five papers, all called “DOSE,” are copying two successful papers that were launched in Europe this past year to reach younger readers.
The papers focus more on music, theatre, and the lifestyles of young people beginning their careers and developing relationships. Often it was referred to a magazine.
Jessica Wilson, who was our summer reporter last year, is writing for the Ottawa edition of “DOSE.”
The other important discussion at the OCNA convention grew around the impact the Internet was having on traditional communications media, such as newspaper, television, and radio.
Radio is now using streaming across the Internet to cast a wider reach of listening audiences while targeting a much finer group of listeners. And satellite radio is beaming down—delivering very specific types of entertainment to their specific audience.
Television is using the Internet to expand the delivery of information that is gathered, but can’t be delivered in traditional news hour programs.
Newspapers, meanwhile, are using the Internet to increase the frequency of publishing. Publishers have discovered they can publish a new version of news every 15 minutes.
Everyone is looking for ways to talk with young people. Newspapers are developing sites that young people can reach directly without ever going through the main newspaper portal.
And they are doing similar things for the elderly, though the sites are very different.
The discussions made room for debate. It forced everyone to ask again, “What do we have to do to make communicating with our current readers and future readers better?”
It is a question all businesses are being asked to examine.

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