Sunday, March 30, 2014

Newspaper seen as credible source of information

Those days there were no apps, mobiles, computers, internet or 24x7 news coverage on a dozen television channels. After getting to know very briefly about news developments on All India Radio or Doordarshan, we had to wait for the next day's newspaper to know the details.

Cut to the present. The widespread belief is that fewer and fewer people, especially teenagers and youth, are interested in reading the newspaper. They, instead, turn to websites of their choice or apps on mobile phones or tablets.

The number of newspapers might dwindle, even substantially, over a period of time. But it may be too early to write their obituary.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend an open house of some readers of the newspaper I work for. And, in many ways it was an eye-opener. Some of the points I gleaned from the interaction were:
  • Newspaper, especially the broadsheet format, is considered as the most credible source of information
  • Children are not put off by the language. In fact, they look up to newspapers to learn new expressions and usages.
  • Youngsters love to see colour and illustrations in newspapers.
  • Few people think that newspapers should minimize or abandon their predominant serious role of informing and educating people, in favour of trivia and entertainment
  • It's very difficult to understand what exactly readers want since they are interested in everything from local civic issues to international political developments.
  • Web editions are mainly to check out the latest news developments. But there is huge demand for the e-paper format, the digital version of the physical paper. Because people want to see different sections and page numbers.
Even though lot of news is disseminated via blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Buzzfeed, Reddit etc, most people turn to news organizations for confirmation. The web formats may be catching on, but for the average reader, the printed word on paper seems to still comes across with a stamp of authenticity. Just as movie houses have thrived, though in fewer numbers, in spite of DVDs and online, many years down the line, we would still see physical newspapers coexisting with the web and e-paper formats.

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