As the Golden Age of newspapers comes to an end with the sale of the Washington Post to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, social media is no longer a crutch but a force that can transform and potentially save the dying industry.
- Audience Data
- Mobile Penetration
A Global Web Index Study revealed monthly active users have passed 1.1 billion in the first quarter of 2013, for the first time. Similarly, Twitter is now the fastest growing social platform in the world with a 44% growth from June 2012 to March 2013. According to research from sources including The Washington Post, Pew Research Center and Reuters, social media is a serious contender to print newspapers as a primary source for news. How serious are the numbers?
+ 50% of people have learned about breaking news via social media.
+ 46% of people get their news online at least three times a week.
+ As of 2012, online news revenue has surpassed print newspaper revenue.
A key contributor to the decline of the newspaper industry has been the surpassing of baby boomers by Generation Y; a shift that accounts for the decrease in print readership and increase in digital. So how can we bridge the gap?
The answer lies in the age-group that is seemingly left behind: those older. Twitter’s 55-64 year age bracket is the fastest growing demographic with 79% growth rate since 2012. Similarly, Facebook’s and Google+’s networks are the 45 to 54 year age bracket at growth of 46% and 56% respectively. Through repeated interaction (hashtags, tweets, Facebook groups & posts), optimizing this expanding force is key to reviving the newspaper industry.
With U.S. newspapers’ digital ad revenue at a disappointing 3%, according the Newspaper Association of America, publishers have been devising a way to their capitalize on their readers for new revenue and profit. The Wall Street Journal was the first to institute a paywall in 1997, and nearly half of newspapers and have a similar model.
Why should we care?
Because paywalls bring in something other than revenue: data. This system records the kinds of patterns readers display before purchasing subscriptions. Registrants are prompted to provide e-mail, zip code, industry, job responsibility and position level- valuable information that allows publishers to re-aim their creative initiatives and target their reader’s interests.
A key driver in the future of the social web is the explosion of people accessing the internet via a mobile phone with a growth of 60.3% in the last two years.
As mobile plays a critical role in driving real-time active usage of social platforms in all markets, it is imperative for publishers to capitalize on the shift that is occurring. GlobalWebIndex reports that iOS and Android users are significantly more likely to use Facebook, Twitter and Google+ compared to the average internet user around the world and since 27.8% of people rely on social media as a news source (TV News- 59.5%, Newspapers 28.8%), publishers have a window of opportunity to join this movement.
Needless to say, The Golden Age of newspapers is not ending, but rather entering a new era. Publishers are at the cusp of evolving and transforming news and journalism. The trick is not to resist social media but integrate it skillfully to retain the quality, integrity and creativity newspapers are revered for.
UPDATE: This article has been adjusted to accurately state the WSJ as the first paywall.