Is the future of newspapers guaranteed? … as online platforms become the in-thing and sales go down

The future of traditional print media is in doubt as more and more consumers of news are resorting to digital platforms to access daily news, media experts said at yesterday’s free press day panel discussion.

Recent reports show that newspapers alone have suffered a 7.9% decline in revenue generated from adverts while magazines have lost an estimated 5.9%, head of the Namibia Editors Forum's (NEF) Jossy Joss disclosed. 

“Digital platforms are here to stay and we must find the right ways to mitigate the negative aspects online,” said information communication technology minister, Stanley Simataa who was speaking on the panel.

Pressed on whether the cybercrime bill, which has been lashed in mainstream media for promoting spy-activities, will help create a sustainable online media, Simataa said contrary to recent articles about it, the bill allows for exchange of information. 

Veteran journalist, Gwen Lister also said, “The future is digital and media literacy is key so that people are able to seek credible news and not fake news.” 

This prompted questions as to whether the coming on aboard of digital media platforms would mean complete death to newspapers, Lister said there is still hope for them.

She said given the mix of fake news online will drive readers into seeking for credible sources of information and the onus is on print-journalists to check on the quality of their content.

As more and more young people are searching for news online, Lister said there has to be engagement with this demography and assess its expectations from journalists, visa-vis content and quality. 

Said Namibia Press Agency’s Isack Hamata, “We are already online and ready. It is now a question of how l much time is now left for traditional media to die. It’s just a matter of time. Sales are going down. This will kill print media soon.”

The fear of consumers tempering with online news and distorting them to spread fake news still lingers close, he said, suggesting that, “People will possibly have to pay per story online.”

Joss said, unlike traditional newspapers that have to be paid for, online content is usually free, however, the minister said a large section of Namibian society still does not have smartphones and may have to rely on newspapers.

However, University of Capetown based professor Herman Wasserman said, “The concern should not be which platform survives but which quality of journalism survives. Good journalism can flourish online and invest money in it. Online is populated with rubbish and we want listen to communities on what they want.” 

Meanwhile, it has been observed that media sustainability in the region has declined due to tech-giants like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and the likes taking over the news-space.

The need to survive has also driven some news-sources to the corner, trading ethics brown-envelop journalism, which simply put means, receiving money from sources to write biased news.

The professor warned that when “media become vulnerable economically, they become vulnerable politically.”