For years, it started the day for millions: the thwump of the newspaper hitting the door, or the window, or the neighbor’s dog. Along with a cup of coffee, maybe some breakfast, the arrival of the morning paper meant the beginning of the daily grind.
Fast-forward to present day. The evening paper, long extinct in cities with larger circulations, is still alive in smaller towns that have no morning editions. The argument is, with the internet so available to the masses, and, for the most part, providing free news, what is the future of the newspaper? Can it continue under these circumstances, or is it doomed to extinction?
Is News Environmentally Friendly?
First, let’s look at the newspaper from an environmental point of view. Nearly four billion trees worldwide are cut down annually for paper alone, representing about 35% of all harvested trees. However, many of the trees used for paper come from tree farms, which are planted and replenished solely for that purpose.
Fact: each person in the United States uses 749 pounds of paper per year that adds up to 187 billion pounds per year for our entire population. Of course, that puts them squarely in first place over all other countries in consumption. World paper consumption has grown 400 percent in the last 40 years. Of course, these numbers also account for tissue paper, cups, cardboard packaging…paper is everywhere.
The U.S. Toxic Release Inventory report released by the EPA states that pulp and paper mills are among the worst polluters to air, water and land of any industry in the country.
This isn’t just about paper, though, and we know it. Our world today is about convenience…the faster and cheaper we can access anything, the better. When it comes to numbers and the “older” media, it is the newspaper that has the most to lose from the accessibility of the internet. Circulation has fallen in many countries besides America — Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Latin America, for example — for decades, but in the last few years, it’s really taken a free-fall as the web has become ever faster and available to the masses. The number of people employed by the industry fell by 18% between 1990 and 2004, according to www.economist.com.
The internet provides an outlet for anyone with an opinion, and the ability to have a voice is very attractive. Blogging has exploded onto the web scene, and with it, more diverse opinions, leading readers to question authority, statistics and other so-called “facts” of print media.
Naturally, virtually all large-circulation papers have established strong websites. With advertising dollars providing more revenue, these online versions of the paper can reach more readers, generate more talk, and lead to more hits and higher numbers.
Teenagers now don’t really remember a time without the internet, and reading a newspaper is something many of them will do only if it’s required work for a project. Going through a newspaper, trying to find a relevant section and ending up with newsprint all over your hands (yes, another strike against the paper) is so much less appealing than typing in what you’re trying to find in a search engine and getting 145,000 hits in 0.09 seconds.
I. Reasons for publishing a WWW version of the print newspaper