NOV. 18, 2017

The Newspaper Industry Is Going Through Major Changes That Could Have Negative Consequences

Editor and Publisher’s DataBook Listing shows there are 126 fewer daily newspapers in 2014 than 2004. Not only are newspapers closing, but job cuts run deep in the industry as both circulation and advertising revenues decline. In 2016 alone, there have been 400 job cuts, buyouts or layoffs. Circulation of print newspapers is down 7 percent in 2015. Newspaper advertising revenue dropped from about $60 billion to about $20 billion.

It’s not breaking news that the newspaper industry is going through tough times. For the past 15 years, the newspaper industry has been on life-support. What is perhaps newsworthy and somewhat underreported is the major structural change of the newspaper industry just to financially survive in the digital Internet era. These changes have directly influenced traditional journalism in ways that are arguably dangerous to society much more than most realize.

Change one: consolidation. Major newspaper chains are more frequently buying out other major newspapers chains. Consolidation in every industry has unhealthy consequences. From a business perspective, it creates monopolization by a few companies of an entire industry affecting competitive pricing and potential for consumer exploitation. In the news business, consolidation translates to less diversity in news content. In other words, consumers of news are limited in exposure and are hearing the same news redundantly by the same news chains with almost identical editorial formats. In radio, we hear the same songs no matter what station we turn to. In TV, the same cycled programs are re-run on multiple stations owned by the same company. The overarching result of consolidation is limitation to diverse dissemination of information.

Change two: the rise of color journalism. Finding a niche or target audience is even more dire as newspapers and the media in general fight for market share. In a cut-throat business environment as what we are seeing in media, newspapers editorial content is fashioned to cater to a specific audience, usually either the political right or political left. In this process of product branding, traditional journalism ethics is secondary and truth in reporting often gets lost to meet set editorial content. Some can argue that this trend is better for journalism because it lifts pretenses of partiality and that the notion that journalism was ever impartial to begin with had been just a myth. Color journalism also breaks the shackles that prevented news organizations from being unapologetic advocates for specific causes. At the same time, it’s hard to argue that because of color journalism and in news organizations’ more bold positions on slanted reporting, consumers of news are further indoctrinated into their own political inclinations. It’s easy to just read or tune into news outlets that just echo your political slant and go along not even hearing another perspective. This could be one reason for the increasing gap of understanding in society and the widening divisions Americans are now experiencing.

Change three: influence of giant tech companies on news. In the predigital era, newspapers controlled the new products from original reporting, editorial selection, packaging and delivery. As newspapers enter the digital world, they are finding that some control, particularly in packaging and delivery of news, are not completely in their hands. Rather, tech giants such as Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, and Google, who have their own agenda, have tremendous influence in how news are delivered through search engines, ad networks, trending topics and algorithms. The result is a tug-and-pull type relationship between the media and tech giants where tech giants are having an influence of news and journalism in ways that might not necessarily translate to sound journalism. The Internet as being a source of news has also led to the proliferation of fake news as questionable news sources saturate the net and literally every social network user has the power to share and produce whatever content he wishes, including fake news.

Clearly, newspapers and the media are undergoing structural changes and face new challenges in the age of consolidation, long-running economic hardship, and the Internet. The list is endless as to the value of newspapers and the importance for most of them to survive.  If there are one or two newspapers that speak to the heart of your values, it goes a long way to aid in their success by subscribing or advertising in those newspapers. Help keep the newspaper industry going and support it any way you can.


Support Small Businesses this Holiday Shopping Season

The biggest shopping weekend is fast approaching, the weekend after Thanksgiving that includes Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Big box retailers and chain restaurants, with their massive advertising budgets, need little help promoting Black Friday -- and will no doubt draw in crowds to win the lion’s share of revenues during the holiday shopping season.

A fast-growing national tradition that Hawaii shoppers should consider supporting is Small Business Saturday, a day of shopping on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Conceived in 2010 by American Express as an alternative to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday encourages people to patron brick and mortar businesses, local retailers and local restaurants. The logic: it’s in the best interest for the community to help small businesses thrive, to sustain a diverse economy, and keep money circulating locally. Studies show shopping local keeps a larger percentage of profit in the local economy. It also helps our neighbors, entrepreneurial families, and mom-and-pops who had a dream to risk it all to follow their dream of running their own business.

Holiday season sales have a greater impact on small businesses than large retailers. In some cases, it’s a do-or-die season for smaller retailers who rely on that season’s gross revenues to carry them through the rest of the year. Small businesses -- in every industry from retail to services -- must compete with national companies’ prices.  The slight advantage smaller businesses have is to offer unique products (versus mass produced items) and to offer more friendly, personalized services.

National chains offer great advantages in price and should also be a shopping option this holiday season. It’s not an all-or-nothing situation, and shoppers could do both.

Everyone knows how difficult it is for small businesses to thrive in Hawaii with the high cost of lease space, taxes, and regulatory fees and paperwork. Hawaii consistently rates among the worst states for small businesses. Yet, locals remain undeterred to chase after their dream of entrepreneurship. Now, that is true freedom at work, and the finest example of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” as written in the United States Declaration of Independence.

Help keep this cherished freedom alive. Supporting small businesses is supporting freedom, freedom of choice, freedom of pursuing a lifestyle. Imagine a community where that option -- of becoming a small business owner -- is no longer a viable option financially. Our community, without its rich tradition of mom-and-pop, family-run businesses, would be impoverished in ways far greater than we realize. It might just be worth paying slightly more to help that independent store carrying quality, unique products as gifts this holiday season.

It’s estimated that Small Business Saturday could exceed $15 billion this year. Compare that to $682 billion expected in sales for Black Friday. Yet nationally, small businesses employ about 50 percent of all working Americans.

Give our hardworking small business owners a break and consider shopping on Small Business Saturday this holiday season and support your local business community. As much as your budget allows, consider being a patron of small businesses all-year-round.

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