Glenn Stok discusses his personal views and opinions of significant social and economic influence to inspire further consideration.
Online journalists appeal to readers well, but can small-town newspapers fill a niche that news websites can't touch?
Many printed newspapers are struggling to compete with online publishing. The major impact is due to the technology available on the Internet that allows targeting the news, and the advertising, to its audience.
Journalists can focus on their reader's interests better with online news services. Among all the newspapers printed daily, numerous local publications fill a niche in small towns.
Many rural districts don't have adequate Internet Broadband to all the homes.1 These customers need to get their local paper to keep abreast of events close to home. Some small towns don't even have websites, or they don't maintain them to keep the information up to date. So local newspapers may have an advantage. At least for now.
Google provides local responses to search queries. However, this is only useful if people have Internet access. Online capability is becoming more available as cable and satellite companies expand their services, so the game is changing.
Improved Search Results Provide Better Quality Articles Online
Google always attempts to deliver quality content in search results. A major impact to low-quality articles occurred in February 2011, with modifications to their search algorithm known as the Panda Update.2
Once perfected, this was meant to deliver better quality to search results. Later, in 2012, they introduced the Penguin update to their search algorithm, which focused on eliminating spammy content that offers no value to the reader.
Google also experimented with "Google Authorship Markup," which allows authors of online articles to build a reputation for all their written content.
This reputation affects the ranking of their articles based on acknowledged authority, determined by reader activity.
In 2011 Google added the +1 button to register reader approval with articles they read online, another form of determining quality.
In January 2012, Google added “Search Plus Your World,” so when one uses Google to get answers to questions, the search results will be specific to their likes and interests.
The point I'm making is that print newspapers will have to struggle to survive, especially local versions. They will have to redefine their business strategy to compete with the latest technology of Internet Search.
Difference Between Online News and Printed Newspaper
The concept of online news sites that many old-time newspapers are experimenting with is in vain. They let visitors read a few articles before blocking them and requiring a paid online subscription.
They don’t understand that people can simply go back to their favorite search engine and find links to other websites with the news they want to read.
That brings up another point. Newspapers are full of unwanted extra sections that are of no interest to the subscriber. They only add to the garbage dumps or have to be stored in piles waiting for the next recycling day.
People don't want to deal with that anymore, and with the technology we have today, they don't have to.
Printed newspapers started containing more unwanted content than what people wanted. They have become too big and bulky. In the December 16, 2010 issue of the London Review of Books, I read that the Sunday New York Times is so big that there were stories of paperboys throwing it and accidentally killing the family dog.
It’s easier to carry a tablet or a smartphone and get the news you want, rather than an entire newspaper that has articles you’re not at all interested in reading—not to mention those inky hands from the newspaper print.
Reading News Online Instead of Newspaper
When one uses search engines, they are looking for something specific. However, when one reads a print newspaper, they may see an article title mentioning something intriguing that catches attention.
Some people enjoy discovering the unexpected, but that happens online too. When I search for things online, I have to maintain a focus, or else I go off on all sorts of tangents.
News is usually attainable faster online. It takes time to print a newspaper and deliver it. Many times people can't wait for a print newspaper to come out. They go to Google and search "latest news." Google is good at indexing important world news within seconds.3
It all boils down to preference and comfort level. Different people prefer one to the other for personal reasons. What might be an advantage for one person might be a disadvantage for another.
Why Small-Town Newspapers Have an Advantage
Many search engines use technology to deliver local related results with searches. But small towns without Internet access don't have access to that.
Although broadband Internet is slowly spreading to all corners of the world, many small towns miss out on it because it’s not cost-effective to install broadband capabilities for a small population. It’s expensive to bring fiber to each home when they are scattered few and far between.
It is helpful for residents in rural areas to get information on local activities. If the Internet is not accessible, then the technology Google and other search engines are creating will not be available.
However, Broadband Internet is already penetrating small towns and will provide low-cost access to each home.4 That may eventually hurt small-town newspapers too.
Progress is not happening everywhere, however. So locally printed newspapers in those locations may continue to survive because they are desperately needed. But will that change?
Comparison of Online and Local Print Newspapers
New technologies, such as "4G LTE," provide broadband at speeds comparable to fiber but are cheaper and easier to connect to rural residents. "LTE" stands for Long Term Evolution.5 In addition, 5G will soon provide even faster broadband speeds.6
WiFi is another method that cuts costs and can share broadband among several subscribers in a close area.
As the cost of the equipment decreases and new technology for delivering broadband to the home becomes available, small towns in rural areas will soon have high-speed Internet access.
Many companies are building out their LTE networks to provide wireless ISP, eliminating the need to run fiber to each home. But that isn't happening as well as desired.
Clearwire intended for nationwide coverage by 2017 with their 4G service, known as Clear. On July 9, 2013, Sprint Nextel acquired all shares of Clearwire Corporation.
However, on November 6, 2015, Sprint ceased operations of the Clearwire Network.7
Another company, Stelera Wireless, is actively working on delivering 5G to rural areas with their multi-network 5G vehicle router that is already available.8
Based on the lower cost of broadband and new technology, print newspapers will have to work hard for survival—even in small towns.
Times are changing. Online activities are becoming more available these days, even in rural areas. It’s easier for readers to find the news they want to have at their fingertips.
- Lauren Gibbons. (June 29, 2018). “Rural Communities Suffer the Most Without Access to the Web” - govtech.com
- “What is Google Panda?” (February 23, 2011) - moz.com
- Neil Patel. “How to Get Google to Instantly Index Your New Website” - neilpatel.com
- Mark Sullivan. (March 13, 2018). “This New Wave Of Satellite Broadband Could Challenge Cable And Fiber” - Fast Company
- "LTE (telecommunication)" - Wikipedia
- Charlie Osborne. (July 28, 2020). “5G expected to account for 21% of all wireless infrastructure investment this year” - zdnet.com
- Clearwire - Wikipedia
- "Start your 5G Future with Sierra." - Sierra Wireless Website
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2012 Glenn Stok
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on November 22, 2017:
Alexa Rain - Since you asked–Reading while in transport, such as a train or a car, can cause some people to get dizzy or car-sick, no matter if reading from a book, newspaper, or laptop. It's all a matter of personal preference. Thanks for your question.
Alexa Rain from egypt on November 19, 2017:
I think as you mention,
but also i prefer to follow my favorite author in news paper and it seems kind of prestige to have on and read it in out door places or in transport, isn't it?
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on March 26, 2017:
G Rix - The idea of giving away papers with an included loyalty card is an interesting concept that could save the printed paper industry, or at least give it another stream of income. Thanks for that information.
G Rix on March 26, 2017:
I worry that the world is becoming too dependent on the web and internet technology. The demise of printed newspapers might bring about the demise of independent quality reporting and editorials, such as that in the UKs Guardian and Observer newspapers - which are owned by Trusts,run by Boards of Trustees, and not subject to interference by private owners. It's difficult to imagine that these publications would be able to generate enough income from running ads on webpages to allow them to be financially sustainable if they dispensed with print. At the moment Waitrose supermarket gives a range of papers away to customers who present a Waitrose loyalty card - I suppose that they place bulk orders, the cost of which is offset by the customers who are attracted to the store by the freebie.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on March 18, 2017:
Sherry, thats's another problem with printed newspapers that you brought up. It cost money to print. Ink, paper, folding, delivery, and so on. It all costs money. Websites have a fixed flat cost no matter how many pages they publish. Only the cost of labor for content writing. Thanks for adding that additional information about the need to pay for local newspapers. Eventually all local townships will have to catch up with web technology. Many do already.
Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on March 17, 2017:
Our local newspaper has local news that is not available elsewhere. They are online, but as you noted, after a few articles they want you to pay. So, we can get state and national news online for free, but if we want to know what's going on in our town and county, we have to pay.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on March 17, 2017:
I agree with everything you said Heidi. Specialty and trade magazines and newspapers provide an advantage that circumvent the need to go online. They will probably survive longer for that reason.
As for community events, I already see many neighborhood organizations creating their own online presence. Going online also makes it easier for people to register for social events. So I think those types of newspapers have a limited life span left.
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on March 17, 2017:
I agree that, at least for the time being, local print newspapers may still have some value. In our neighborhood, there used to be two. Now there's only one which has very limited distribution. The main reason people still buy it is to see pictures of their kids at various community events. So will we see these types of publications morph into community "newsletters?" Maybe.
I also think that print trade newspapers for specialty industries and markets may have a little bit of life left, especially for older industries. But even then, these types of publications are having to develop an online strategy.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on January 06, 2017:
Suzanne Day- Thank you for that detailed review of the issues with newspapers and journalism. Since you once worked in the newspaper business, your thoughts are very meaningful and useful.
Suzanne Day on January 05, 2017:
I think print newspapers will eventually fade and die. As someone who once worked in the newspaper biz, the 'rivers of gold' (classified ads) dried up, then the other advertising had to enlarge to get more money to make up for the classies vanishing. It was around then that readerships became fed up with advertising oversaturation and started declining.
Now, people can reach each other to advertise all the things they used to with classifieds. Craigslist and Gumtree could actually charge users and would be able to get away with it because it would be cheaper than advertising in a newspaper. But they might not because anyone can open a website to compete against them.
The growing trend of people not liking irrelevant advertising oversaturation means that newspapers even online might not always be there. All it would take is credible, journalistic news to topple any of the major ones, since their news these days seems to be quite recycled around the world.
It was interesting to note that I read an article in our national newspaper and then noticed that the same article was published again 8 years later. That is not news, it is old news. I wonder how many rehashed stories we are being fed?
Anyway, people will always want news and credible news. But they will not want to be exploited, heavily advertised at or waste their time reading fluff. Whomever delivers real news will consistently increase their membership base, the only thing stopping them is the price the public has to pay for their news.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on December 03, 2016:
jamesplee - Yes, you brought up an important additional point. With today's technology anyone can start their own online news magazine or become a video broadcaster. There are even tools for curating information, such as Flipboard that I wrote about in another article.
James Lee from Las Vegas, NV on December 03, 2016:
The reporting is what always made the newspapers great. I think the stories are still being told online, or at least could be if people wanted to tell them. The reality of today is that we all have the tools and resources to become the newspaper, the publisher and even the TV and movie outlets. It's all there for the taking. Run with it.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on March 27, 2012:
imatellmuva ~ Thanks for your insightful comment. That is indeed a problem with some printed newspapers. Cost of printed papers is not in line with online media, which makes most of their money from ads.
alocsin ~ Looks like a common feeling among a lot of people that the papers are getting thinner. You have also added important insight to this. Thanks for stopping by. Your vote was also much appreciated.
Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on March 27, 2012:
It's a vicious circle. People are reading printed papers less, so they get thinner. Because they get thinner, you're less inclined to read them. Voting this Up and Interesting.
imatellmuva from Somewhere in Baltimore on February 24, 2012:
While I haven't read a newspaper in quite some time; I do miss sitting down and perusing through the paper.
While an online news source can provide relevant content on multiple topics it still, and in many ways does not replace that a newspaper is the preferred medium (for me anyway).
The main reason I rarely read the paper now is because the cost has skyrocketed, and the newspaper itself is merely a few pages; hardly worth the cost of the print.
Many people, including myself are opting for free local publications of news, so we can still feel paper, flip a page, finish a crossword, read the obits, local ads, etc.; all while sipping a nice cup of coffee.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on February 24, 2012:
Larry Wall, thank you for that detailed commentary. It's important to hear the viewpoint of someone in the business, such as you. Thanks for stopping by.
Larry Wall on February 23, 2012:
Having worked for a small town newspaper and having read a lot of news off the internet, it is apparent that the large metropolitan newspaper is in trouble. The same could be said for television stations that have their own news departments.
The defining word is local.
In the small paper where I worked for 16 years cover the four local high schools sporting events, we published the honor rolls, we ran pictures of club activities.
As a reporter I cover the city council, parish government, school board, drainage districts, etc. Our readers knew what was going on in their community and they still cannot find that level of content on the web.
We wrote feature stories about individuals. We provided a vehicle that small advertisers could afford.
The internet is a great tool and has certainly changed the face of news--not all for the better. I cringe when I log onto some newspaper sites and I have to sit through an ad. We did not put ads on our front page.
We ran the engagement announcements, the wedding stories, the birth announcements and the obituaries. We ran community announcements about bake sales, church fairs, etc. You could read the paper while waiting to get a haircut, or while your oil was being changed and yes you could use it for bird cage lining and to wrap fish.
I think the smaller papers will learn to survive. They are forming chains. There are few independents. They are consolidating printing operations and coordinating coverage of events, but there is still something on your front lawn every day that will be about your community.
I do not want to carry a Kindle or tablet with me all the time. My phone fits in my pocket and keeps me informed well enough until I can get home and watch the news--after I read the paper.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on February 17, 2012:
Jim, I guess paper, for one thing, doesn't fill landfills. Paper is recycled quite well these days. But I do have to agree with you that reading the news on, say, a Kindle, is easier than dealing with bulk and ink that rubs off. Thanks for your insight and for the vote up.
James Bowden from Long Island, New York on February 17, 2012:
Interesting article about online vs. print newspapers. I believe in the theory that you can teach an old dog new tricks only if the old dog wants to learn new tricks. So in essence many older folks are basically set in their ways and still like to get ink all over their hands. However I like the idea of being able to read the New York Times at no charge via my laptop. And it doesn't cost me a thing. Our modern generation is accustomed to reading literature...books newpapers etc... online and I believe they will continue with the transition. And with the nook readers and other e-readers such as the Kindle, who wants to thumb through an oversized paper like the NY times if they don't have to. And I believe you're right in assuming that the newspapers of today will eventually be nothing but paper dinosaurs of the past. Besides are landfills are already filled with enough refuse-eliminating paper newspapers will only cut down further on wasted space. Thanks for an interesting read which I also voted up.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on February 15, 2012:
somethgblue ~ Yes indeed. I find spacing out the paragraphs helps a great deal with reader retention. Thanks for your insightful comment.
FGual ~ Some newspapers are better than others. But I agree with you that there are many papers that apply their biased attitudes. One has to know if there is bias behind what they read. But this is the same thing if you read something online too. I appreciate your insight with this. Thanks for commenting.
FGual from USA on February 14, 2012:
One reason they are disappearing aside from the online invasion, is their less than fair and balanced portrayal of the news. Their political bias will sneak into their reporting, thus alienating some readers. The New York Times is definitely an example, and my local Tampa Bay Times is as well. Don't know if they are related.
somethgblue from Shelbyville, Tennessee on February 13, 2012:
That is why it is so important to break up the text into small paragraphs such as you have done, our eyes aren't used to reading with light shining through the words.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on February 13, 2012:
somethgblue ~ Thanks for including your knowledge of small towns. It's useful to have people, such as you, who live in small towns to give their feedback on this issue. It helps make a complete picture of the situation. Internet service is simply not available everywhere. And local newspapers still have a chance of survival in those location.
alexandra-t ~ I have to agree with you. My eyes sometimes get tired reading on a computer screen.
alexandra-t on February 12, 2012:
I still prefer reading real newspapers to reading them online...nothing beats getting to flip the pages! =)
somethgblue from Shelbyville, Tennessee on February 11, 2012:
Actually having lived in Big Cities most of my life those are the papers that seem to be hit the hardest.
Now that I live in a small town (less than thirty thousand) it is imperative to get the local paper to keep abreast of the local doings. Most small towns don't have websites or if they do they are poorly run and updated.
So they seem to do better, being in the graphic arts industry for thirty years has kept me abreast of the situation.
I find my small town newspaper works better for me than the internet for local activities.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on February 11, 2012:
Pamela ~ Very good points you added. My Aunt continued to read the New York Times until she dies at 98. So I know what you mean. I guess it will take till the next generation before it gone for good. But your comment about rural areas indicates that print media may have some hope for survival. At least as long as the Internet is not available. Thanks for stopping by. Always a pleasure to include your insightful comments.
FloraBreenRobison ~ It's fun to read local news about other areas. I just checked out Fraser Valley. Google gives a bunch of sites with local news and events in your charming town in Vancouver. Sounds like a place I'd like to visit with Community related fairs, festivals, parades, art studio tours, plays and other recreation events.
FloraBreenRobison on February 11, 2012:
The Chilliwack Progress is well over 100 years old. It started in 1891. We also have The Chilliwack Times. These deal only with local Fraser Valley news or provincial politics that will affect us. I read them both. They come out twice a week.
Pamela N Red from Oklahoma on February 11, 2012:
It's also generational as well. Older people are used to reading the paper and find it hard to switch. I know some senior citizens who don't have computers or smart phones so the newspaper or television are still their main source of current events.
Rural areas will hang on to the print versions for a much longer time than cities.