With the advent of technology and the rapid spread of information on social media, a large section of society likes to consume news and current affairs via popular handles like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Apps etc. With young people abandoning news websites altogether, much cannot be said about newspapers and their consumption by youth, especially after the effects of Covid19 pandemic globally, when everyone has started resorting to their mobile phones for news and current affairs.
While cheap consumption and the rapidity of information are two of the major reasons for people to consume news via social media platforms, Feminism In India took a survey of youth between the age group of 19-27 and found many other reasons as well. Out of 34 responses, 24 people said they did not receive any newspaper at their place of residence.
While it explains that people might not want to spend money on newspapers, it also presents a grim reality of print journalism in India. It also explains the fact that when news is not being consumed by what Arthur Miller termed as a “nation talking to itself,” people very often like to read/consume it on digital platforms for its cheapness, availability at all times and rapidity.
The survey also found newspapers are delivered to some respondents, however, they are mostly read by senior citizens and parents. Around 28 people said they like to consume news via social media but many also pointed out the dangers of the same.
Aleen Johnson, one of the respondents mentioned, ‘Online news sources frequently cater to specific social and political agendas, targeting particular audiences, while newspapers provide a comprehensive view of various news categories, such as international affairs, trade, politics, and business, organised for easy readability and reference.’
Respondents also pointed out that a lot of information does not reach people just because the visual content on these social media handles is short and caters to an audience that has lost patience and is short on reading span.
Mukund Padmanabhan, former editor of The Hindu and The Hindu Businessline talked to FII about the dying print journalism in India and the dangers of social media as a platform for news consumption. He said ‘Print journalism is disappearing and we cannot predict how long it will go on to survive. Consuming news via social media has enormous dangers, people are getting news for free and thus are being subjected to all kinds of news. I do not think that free news is going to be of much help in the long run.’
Padmanabhan further stated, ‘On the other hand, most newspapers are printing much less than before and though the newspaper industry is not a big industry it is now half the size of what it used to be.’
While the COVID-19 pandemic is just one of the many reasons for the decline of newspapers, globally, the Reuters Institute also mentions the Russia-Ukraine war, and global climate change as other factors affecting the growth of journalism in general, worse for the print journalists. There have been layoffs in big media industries like CNN as well, mentions the same report. While all this might not impact the news consumer directly as the consumer might have multiple other sources to consume news, it does impact print journalism in India along with the newspaper industry and its growth.
According to Kantar – Google report, around 80 per cent of people come across news which is difficult to be tagged as fake or misinformation. The report also mentions as much as 70 per cent of respondents read summaries written in less than 60 words, 67 per cent top story headlines and 48 per cent long-form content.
Out of FII’s 34 respondents, 81 per cent of individuals said they consume news via social media while just 14 per cent read newspapers. 81 per cent of people also said that very often they just read the headlines and ignore the rest of the newspaper further indicating the short attention spans, the need to consume the news which is short and very crisp and why would not anybody want to sit with a newspaper and read it in detail.
Fatima Usmani, another respondent mentions, ‘We would prefer to watch a summarised news report in a 30-second reel than to take out 30 minutes and patiently read newspapers.’
Having said this, the visual content of social media platforms is consumed more than the textual content. A binary also exists on social media where the shorter the video is, the more its reach will be. The practice of reading news is disappearing altogether, not just when it comes to reading newspapers but also news on social media platforms. This again poses the spread of inauthentic information since anyone could claim the news in a reel/video to be true and factual thereby, blurring the difference between fake news and authentic news.
Respondents are also scared of the polarising opinions/views which are sometimes visible through the forwarded news received via WhatsApp. Thus, few of them preferred reading newspapers the most popular of which are The Hindu and the Hindustan Times at a time when the world is switching to the digital news spaces. These respondents are at the same time very hopeful about the future of print journalism in India, with many even acknowledging the fact that nothing can replace newspapers and the printed word.
While social media continues to be the most popular source of news consumption due to varied reasons, the newspaper industry, though already stood the time of several challenges will continue to stay here for a while and not be diminished completely. While, in most houses, it is just limited to the elderly and the parents, few people from the youth are also interested in it. Under such circumstances, print journalism will definitely not disappear but might have to undergo challenges to stand at an equal stature to the news on social media/digital spaces.
While cheap news, rapidity and visuality might be some factors leading to the popularisation of news in the digital world, authenticity and unbiased news are what newspapers and the print world are working towards. The 21st-century youth might have short attention spans and would like to scroll down their phone’s screens to consume current affairs and news, but the legitimacy of the newspapers cannot be questioned. The world would turn back and would always put its trust in the printed circulation of news.
The industry might seem to collapse at the moment and what does the future have in store for it, nobody could say and predict. Print journalists and their journalism might be undergoing innumerable challenges in contemporary times but can they be completely eradicated? Hopefully not. Newspapers have stood the test of time and will continue to do so, especially in a world highly charged and moved by the digitalization of news and circulation of current happenings.