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Death of newspapers greatly exaggerated, researcher says

Annual reports show that American newspapers are still profitable

Prof. Marc Edge insists that newspapers will continue to thrive. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Prof. Marc Edge insists that newspapers will continue to thrive. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Rumours of the looming death of newspapers have been greatly exaggerated, according to a researcher.

Marc Edge was referring to Mark Twain’s famous response to an American newspaper that had mistakenly printed his obituary. When Mr Twain heard about the obituary from a reporter, he promptly quipped: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

Reports of the impeding end of print media were similarly false, Prof. Edge insisted. His research into newspapers and their financial success challenges the notion that newspapers are doomed in a time of smartphones and social media.

Annual reports show that American newspapers are still profitable but that their revenues declined sharply from 2006 to 2013. Still, Prof. Edge says, publishers re-emerged stronger and ready to compete after the recession.

Newspapers are attracting more readers than ever

Addressing a public lecture, he said US and Canadian publishing houses have adapted to meet new business challenges, particularly online media. Abroad, newspapers have created paywalls to allow readers to pay for online content.

Despite criticism, the business model gave new life to media companies, he said.

In 2009, Time magazine published a list of the 10 most endangered newspapers in the United States. The list included heavyweights like the Miami Herald and The Boston Globe.

But many newspaper companies that shut down came back, showing resiliency in an ever-changing market, Prof. Edge said.

Author Philip Meyer also predicted the death of the news reader, saying that the “last reader” would be lost in March 2043. Despite his prediction, newspaper houses and journalists are attracting more readers than ever, albeit online, Prof Edge said.

US media companies had adapted their business model, adjusting financial inputs by cutting back on circulation, he continued. American newspapers that enjoyed widespread distribution had contracted their footprint and doubled prices in an attempt to make up for ad revenue shortfall, he said. But as profit margins continued to decline, US news companies still continued to make much more than Fortune 500 companies, Prof. Edge found.

He warned against “native advertising”, in which sponsored articles were marketed as being the same as other, non-sponsored content.

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