Did the Internet really disrupt the newspaper industry?

Autumn 2014

Newspapers. Death thereof. Always enjoy watching the world put their two bits worth in on what went wrong. The ignominy of the 19th Century print monopoly was disrupted by the web.

Ah the magic of disruption. It's like the sweet smell of napalm in the morning. You can just see those brave band of VC's and start-up entrepreneurs flying in on their attack helicopters. Wagner blaring triumphantly over the sea of spilt in ink.

How brave. How heroic. How thoughtful. How Free!

But does the myth hold true. Have the newspapers been disrupted by the Internet. Or could it be that something more than the wave of digital paper has set their platform on fire?

As per usual a couple of graphs to explore the idea. A deconstruction of thinkfluencing beyond the tweetform if you like.

We'll begin with employment, revenues - advertising of course, we are after all talking of the disruption by the free - and a proposition. Nay, more a question. Was it the web or the smart phone that ignited the demise of the newspaper across America?

Newspapers Employment vs Advertising Revenues

The chart suggests employment across the industry began to fall two decades before the decline in advertising revenues. But the catalyst for revenue growth came earlier.

On the face of it a simple case of doing more with less. Optimisation by technology. The newspaper of the digital age.

So let's take a look at the impact of the web. Did the Internet, this information superhighway, really disrupt the newspaper industry?

Newspapers Employment vs Advertising Revenues vs Growth in Subscribers

Actually the chart suggests the newspapers did pretty well out of the information superhighway. Being more connected through your PC didn't interfere with your consumption of Newspaper Advertising. Better still newspaper cut their costs of doing business by even more. Far from losing Newspapers seem to be big winners during the rush to make the connection.

So the web page didn't disrupt the paper page. The reason being of course the web page couldn't be consumed during the daily commute.

Enter the smartphone. Let's see what happens next.

Newspapers Employment vs Advertising Revenues vs Growth in Smartphone Adoption

Do you see the correlation?

The next question being why?

The answer being the smart phone gave people something to do while they did their daily commute. Or, drank their coffee, eat breakfast or whatever other time they would have previously spent reading the newspaper.

Simple fact is journalists thought what they had to offer the world was important. Truth is people consumed the news because they had nothing better to do with their time. Brain candy. The festival of the spectacle. The passing parade. A parlour game.

The smartphone changed all that. What with a pocket full of games, pictures and social activities to catch up on who needs to read the news? As to the question is this new habit more productive? A better use of all that cognitive surplus? I'll leave that up to you, dear reader, to decide... at least until next time.

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