, BERLIN, Germany, Jul 27 – The future of newspapers has stirred worldwide debate with popular bloggers and media experts in Germany expressing varied ideas especially with the growing presence, high usability and preference of online media among the younger generation.
Whereas many bloggers argue that print media will not survive the Internet era, there are other media experts who believe newspapers will not die.
At the same time, some think readership and circulation will steadily reduce as more and more people are choosing online media over newspapers.
Some experts think that print media will not become extinct and there is no media form that has managed or will manage to kill off another.
After visiting and interacting with experts from about 10 media organisations in Germany, it is apparent that online media is becoming increasingly popular and it would ill-advised to ignore it.
The feeling I got during my visits is that newspapers, television and radio in Germany are all keen to go online to match up with the emerging Internet technology and its resultant market.
Birke Becker, Director of Membership Services and Development at World Association of Newspapers and News Publisher – believes newspapers are not on their death beds even with the shift to online media.
He believes people will still continue buying and reading newspapers.
Hardy Prothmann a famous blogger in Germany believes print media will be no more in the coming years, "newspapers are the future museums… times are changing, there is fresh and free information on Internet and the future of newspapers is not golden, it\’s over!"
His reasons are clear. Newspapers give stale news that has already been read online and freely.
iPad Project Manager from Stern – a weekly magazine and an active website in Germany – David Heimburger believes online media will definitely negatively affect print media.
However he believes print media will continue to exist though luxuriously, "there were times when horses were used for transportation and they were very useful in the past, but now it\’s hard to find anyone who uses horses for transportation. In fact, they now became luxurious items. Newspapers nowadays are very common but in future, they will not vanish but will become luxurious like horses".
Blogging and multi-media
The use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter are also vital.
Incorporation of multi-media – audio plus video, text, photos, and postcards – and use of mobiles are key in online media development.
ARD\’s Tagesschau Editor-in-Chief Jorg Sadrozinski, says the television went online in 1996 in order to cater for this new trend of news consumption, "It is key to be where your audience wants you to be," says Jorg.
After realising that young people were losing interest in their television and online material, Tagesschau considered the mobile youth and incorporated mobile material for such generation.
In Kenya, there are a number of media houses that have gone online with updated material. Although newspapers are seen to give yesterday\’s news today, advertisers are yet to be convinced that online is a new form of media quickly finding its footing.
The challenges are however infrastructural and related to availability of internet, computers and knowledge across the country.
But whether newspapers will survive the Internet era or not, is a question print professionals can attest to by analysing the status of their circulation, returns of newspapers and their readership.
There is a window of opportunity – can newspapers compete with the new media to defend their relevance?
Giving fresh news or something different from what people have read on the Internet is a big task that will determine their survival especially in countries that have poor readership.
In Germany, newspaper readership is quite high with seven out of 10 people reading them, but according to Mr Prothmann, these ratios will decrease as more people prefer to read online material. Print media in Germany has higher survival compared to developing countries where readership levels are quite low.