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Newspapers and the Internet


Not since the Internet began has there been so much free quality newspaper content circulating on the World Wide Web. Bob Dylan probably summed it up in his hit song when he said, "times they are a changing." With so many looking to the Internet for their news, many newspaper publishers are not sure how to respond. While many believe newspapers are far from dead, they readily admit the Internet is having a negative impact on newspaper circulation and the paper industry, which supplies the end product.

My perspective - Not since the Internet began has there been so much free quality newspaper content circulating on the World Wide Web. Bob Dylan probably summed it up in his hit song when he said, "times they are a changing."

With so many looking to the Internet for their news, many newspaper publishers are not sure how to respond. While many believe newspapers are far from dead, they readily admit the Internet is having a negative impact on newspaper circulation and the paper industry, which supplies the end product.

Over the years, newspapers have been pretty resilient, riding out the challenge of radio and later television. Those challenges were all about getting the story out first and I can remember the late Mike Roberts of CJON saying it was critical we get the story on the tube before VOCM. Those challenges were all about being first. The Internet is changing all of that and is hurting where it hurts the most - the pocketbook.

For more than 100 years, journalism has been sustained by the cycle in which the reader or audience paid for news and the advertiser paid to reach the same audience. Publishers made a profit and paid the journalist.

This all breaks down with the Internet where you can get your news for free and advertisers can advertise their products while you wait to log on. Free newspapers are also popping up everywhere, placing more pressure on the traditional newspaper and the way it is produced. Producing a newspaper today is no easy task and it isn't cheap.

Somewhere in the forest a tree is cut down, loaded onto a truck and taken to a factory where it is pulped and turned into a newspaper product. Rolls of paper are taken to a pressroom where ink is applied and the papers are folded and stacked for distribution to cities throughout the world. Costly indeed.

Today instead of buying a paper and later throwing it away, many consumers prefer to get their news online. They say it's more environmentally friendly. It's also quick.

Today's computer junkies have little time for sifting through sections of a paper or getting ink on their hands. They want their news now and they want it fast and clean. This is after all the 'me' generation with cell phones and Blackberries and all of the new technology life has to offer.

The challenge facing newsprint producers and their publishers is here to stay. They must now successfully find a way to integrate the Internet into their business and to market their news and advertising to consumers who have little time for washing ink off their fingers. Supp-liers and publishers have to work together like never before. They have to be media savvy.

In the meantime, Rupert Murdock's News Corporation just recently purchased another Internet property that is non-newspaper. This brings the total acquisition this year to over $1.5 billion, which should be seen as an alarming trend.

Closer to home the Internet version of the Advertiser recently received more feedback to the David Kerr AbitibiBowater letter than the hard copy paper itself. There are more and more people reading the Advertiser on line and they don't pay a cent for it. The Internet is here to stay.

In his recent controversial article to this paper, former general manager David Kerr spoke of making new kinds of products for the manufacturing plant in Grand Falls-Windsor. Maybe he has a point. If you are reading this column online, then you have just placed another nail into the coffin of those who think they will always get their news the old fashion way.

As AbitibiBowater continues with it's restructuring of the local paper mill, its important we all keep in mind that things will never be the same in the newsprint manufacturing and publishing business. Today's leaders should make the critical changes now to position the industry for the future.

This is not the time to dither and be tardy.

(Roger Pike writes from Grand Falls-Windsor. He can be reached at roger.pike@nf.sympatico.ca.)

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