Monday, October 25, 2021
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The press... in decline? Paper tigers

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Norberto Gallego. Journalist 

Declines in circulation and advertising revenues of the print media are real and global phenomena which together affect the prospects of the sector. But this does not prevent the sector itself being the protagonist of striking buying and consolidation operations.

For years, few issues have attracted so much media attention as the omens written about the death of the written press. Typically, the gloomy forecasts have been served up seasoned with a little thoughtful enthusiasm for blogging, something called citizen journalism, the proliferation of user-generated content, and other manifestations of the Internet era. Accepted data reveal that it is not so, and that in any case, there is room in the market for daily newspapers. If the indeed are doomed, as some say, they still they have some life ahead of them.

This is what emerges from a recent survey commissioned by the World Editors Forum, which brings together directors and managers of newspapers: 85 percent of the 435 surveyed members feel rather optimistic about the future of their newspapers and their ability to adapt to competition from the Internet.

It is true that, overall, the circulation of the press continues to grow, if free distribution means are incorporated in the calculation; without this factor, it would have gone down last year. As for advertising, Zenith Optimedia consultancy predicts that this revenue will grow this year by 5.4 percent, half a point less than last year, mainly because advertisers find cheaper alternatives on the Internet for classified, which they have historically been a graveyard for the press. In the USA, a cooling housing sector and car manufacturers' crisis are cited as the leading causes of the advertising recession, in the hope that the election campaign revives investment.

In view of these considerations, no-one would say a capitalist in their right mind should risk their fortune to enter into a business doomed to decay. It happens, however, that ownership of a newspaper has always been a very visible platform for anyone who wants to influence society, politics and economy; today it is also -and this often forget many commentators- a window on the ascending world of Internet.

Trends

America is a singular and unrepeatable case, but also a laboratory to observe trends in the media. Two phenomena converge in this country that affect the ownership of the press. On one hand, the emergence of a new breed of investors, businesses from outside the publishing activity, taking positions as owners -or as would-be candidates- in established media. Furthermore, the traditional dynastic control groups are decreasing, either by the generational change in the families owning them, or simply because they are now more sensitive to the pressures of minority shareholders.

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