Michael Owen And The Future Of Newspapers

By Sudarshana Banerjee
Who is Michael Owen? What do you mean did an entire Q&A over Twitter?
Glad you asked. Michael Owen plays in the striker position for Manchester United, and was considered by soccer enthusiasts to be Britain’s second-most popular player (David Beckham is king of the top slot) before Wayne Rooney came along.

To answer your next question, the 31-year old soccer player was travelling to London by car, and decided to take questions over Twitter during the commute. His fans happily obliged. There were questions from around the world, and the discussion lasted a little over two hours. Owen is hosting another round of discussions on his way back from London.

Owen also has his own website (which went live on September 26 this year), and tweets about it, talking about a contest he is holding, and issues over iPad/iPhone with the competition page (now, solved). At last count, Owen had 699, 852 followers on Twitter.

Just to get a perspective, lets look at a different set of numbers now. Best selling papers as of March 31, 2010 in the U.S.A., according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, are the Wall Street Journal at number one with 2,092,523 copies sold daily,  USA Today at number two with 1,826,622 copies sold daily.  The New York Times is third with a circulation of 951,063. Overall, newspaper circulation was down 8.7 per cent nationally compared to the previous year. Wall Street Journal is the only newspaper in the country that is actually growing in terms of readership. In the United Kingdom, best-selling papers as of January, 2011, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, are The Sun (3,001,822) The Daily Mail (2,136,568) and the Daily Mirror, (1,194,097).

Think of the scale a newspaper has, and think of individual people updating their social media status and pages; managing to not only duplicate but often surpass traditional media in terms of readership. Sure they can not get the depth of coverage (yet), but they have the breadth of readership pat down.

Some other things have been happening in the media world: Newspapers used to sell access once upon a time; they had the scoops on ‘news’, on what was going on around the world. Today, we get news even as it happens – via Twitter, via Facebook or Google+ updates, among other sites. Most newspapers (all newspapers?) have a digital e-counterpart, and there are newspapers that do not have a print edition at all. Sites like Quora let us ask questions, and get answers. Journalists have become almost as important as newspapers – some of them have become brands from being mere icons – whether they intended it to happen or not. On the other end of the spectrum however, salaries in the media industry, especially the print media industry is nothing to write home about. The salary of a journalist, according to PayScale hover in the region of $19,723 to $65,028 on a broad average.

What will reporters report on, if news starts reporting itself? What will the future of the newspaper be?

In his book, ‘The Vanishing Newspaper’ author Philip Meyer, professor emeritus in Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill estimates that 2043 will be the year when newsprint dies in America. The end may not be with a whimper; and the end might not be the end either; media companies are not likely to patiently wait and watch their readership numbers come tumbling down the wall.

What will the future of the newspaper be, we were wondering. Let us rephrase. What will the future’s newspaper be like?


Sudarshana Banerjee is consulting editor with She can be reached at [email protected].

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