Predicted: Canadian Newspapers, Local Broadcasters to All But Disappear by 2025

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 by , Poynter.org  Aug. 31, 2015

Ken Goldstein, a leading media business analyst in Canada, has just published a grim prediction for legacy news outlets north of the border: “In 2025, it is likely that there will be few, if any, printed daily newspapers.”

For good measure, Goldstein adds, “there might be no local broadcast stations in Canada” 10 years from now.

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While noting declines in advertising, classified particularly, Goldstein bases his bleak view on newspaper circulation trends (see graph).  Daily paid circulation as a percentage of Canadian households, he writes, has fallen from just under 50 percent in 1995 to 20 percent in 2014.

If those declines continue, circulation will amount to only 5 to 10 percent of households in 2025, too little, Goldstein says, “to support a viable print business model for most general interest daily newspapers.”

He adds in his August 20 paper, “Canada’s Digital Divides,”

Thus, Canada’s daily newspapers now are engaged in a 10-year race against time and technology to develop an online business model that will enable them to preserve their brands without print editions, and – even more difficult – to try to develop new kinds of economic bundles (or other kinds of economic arrangements) that will enable their online presence to maintain their current journalistic scope.

Goldstein has elsewhere described Canada as a big country but a smallish media market. Lack of scale, a split of readers by language, and a predominance of national papers over local all conspire to make the country’s newspapers especially vulnerable to disruption.

While U.S. newspaper finances are hardly robust, they still boast both daily and Sunday circulation above 40 million, penetrating daily to about a third of households.

For television. Goldstein sees the local broadcast sector failing to adapt as the traditional over-the-air model gave way to cable and now Internet delivery.  In the U.S. huge political advertising revenue windfalls and retransmission fees continue to keep local stations highly successful financially. Canada lacks those factors, and Goldstein says the stations have become “a much less profitable business — and now (find themselves) in a money-losing situation.”

Goldstein also consider the impact on journalism as newspapers and local broadcast fade:

If the two largest sources of spending on journalism in Canada today might be gone or much diminished in 2025, what will take their place? A small number of traditional media might be able to make the transition to become national or international online news “brands”, but what will happen to local journalism?

Will we get our news from Apple, Google, or Facebook? Without the current scope of journalistic output, where will Apple, Google and Facebook get their news? And, of course, there are numerous online-only start-ups, often specialized in nature, but few, if any, provide the kind of journalistic scope of our current local daily newspapers or local broadcast television.

He also worries that it is uncertain whether newer journalism outlets will embrace standards of fact-checking, emphasis and other sound practices embedded in the legacy outlets.

I’m not close enough to the Canadian scene to say whether Goldstein’s take is on target or alarmist.  But he has been analyzing that nation’s media for several decades, and both his numbers and reasoning are persuasive.

I have also observed that Canadian newspapers have been making bold and urgent plays in digital suggesting that they see a more measured approach as a losing end game.  The Toronto Star implemented a paywall, then took it down this April, promising to continue investments in video and other digital enhancements.

READ MORE  HERE  AT POYNTER.ORG

4 COMMENTS

  1. Content has always been the deciding factor in whether or not a medium survives. Free online access to websites like Kijii and Craig’s list destroyed the profit center of most newspapers – the classified section. We all witnessed what happened to the Yellow Pages for failure to stay in touch with the market’s changing needs. As each media outlet strives to deliver the bottom line in the face of lower revenues, we can see a reduction in staff and resources. That’s what companies do to remain profitable, Every year, it gets harder to maintain content – yet it’s what is delivered to the listeners, viewers and users that ultimately determines who remains successful. As a great Program Director once told me, it’s what you hear between the songs that makes the difference. That is a large part of the true product that built radio. The innovators that look to unique content give their users something of value – a reason to continue. It seems to me that providers that consistently slash expenses will eventually give people a reason to look elsewhere.

  2. You are so right on, Dave. BETWEEN THE SONGS! Idiots in the ivory towers don’t get it. And good talent “between the songs” costs money. So pay it and people will listen. And you’ll make money. duh!!!

  3. Here in Chilliwack BC Rogers owns two stations so they have deep pockets but only one is really “local” and the other is a Vancouver station with a Chilliwack addy. My old station is owned by Fabmar and they have their financial challenges. Black Press owns the two papers— one is once a week the other is only twice a week. Abbotsford isn’t fairing better. It became a major factor is why I launched FVN Fraser Valley News. On Line blogs/newspapers and social media is the future– which is now !

  4. When I was a kid I used to listen to 630 CHED back in the Moffat Communications era. CHED turned songs into hits and had massive popularity. Some broadcasters with many grey hairs will tell you that the company made incredible profits and even took the entire staff to Hawaii one Christmas to show appreciation.

    Yet, most notably is was the personalities that stood out – I apologize in advance for leaving many radio icons out in this list – Wes Montgomery, Rob Christie, Audie Lynds, Chuck Chandler, Jerry Forbes, Keith James, Jay Hamilton, Randy Kilburn, CR Nichols and even Eddie Keen made you stop your day to listen. The music was great. The personalities were epic. So much so, that I decided to take a broadcasting course from Columbia School of Broadcasting and later spend 25 years in the industry.

    There would be moments that these personalities would take a call from a listener and take two minutes of airtime to do nothing more than say “Hey, who are you and where are you calling from?” They gave people their 15 minutes of fame and as listeners, we were mesmerized because they were REAL and AUTHENTIC. They made us love radio, smile and laugh. Check out this clip and it will bring back memories of your favorite station. By the way, CFCW also had its cult following of die-hard loyal fans (and still does).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXqMc8IEzDE

    Maybe I’m just one of the those aging baby boomers who is whining about the good old days. Yet, the rules of marketing have always stood the test of time. Offer a unique product that no one else has and create the imaging that produces fanatical fans. This is the philosophy that built music legends, Apple technology and so many other brands.

    What makes your product stand out from the pack? What do you offer that gives you a unique identity that distinguishes you from your competitors? These are questions that every leader needs to ask to thrive in the future. if you are not moving ahead to capitalize on new trends, assume you are already headed backward and on the way out.

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