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The world’s longest-published newspaper is stopping the presses and going completely digital, reports the BBC. Lloyd’s List, a 279-year-old newspaper is printing its last edition on December 20. Is this another step in the slow, bleeding death of journalism, or is the transition to digital the next evolutionary step?
To be expected, Richard Meade, Editor and spokesperson for Lloyd’s List, seemed delighted at this news and assured readers and media that this was a step forward instead of into the grave.
“The digital approach offers new avenues and opportunities to innovate an up-to-the-minute service that offers in-depth news and information on every aspect of shipping as well as unrivaled market intelligence and data provision which can be tailored to suit our readers’ needs.”
Fortunately, this pontification was backed by hard evidence. A June 2013 customer survey found that 97% of respondents preferred using Lloyd’s List online and only 2% will only use the print-version of the paper.
Llyod’s List is following in the footsteps of Newsweek, which went digital almost a year ago. When the magazine stopped creating print editions, media began questioning who was next to fall. If a publication as impressive as Newsweek can’t survive, what hope is there for the little guy? Furthermore, will other magazines follow suit? One site went so far as to question whether Time and the Economist might be in trouble.
There’s little doubt that print magazines and newspapers are struggling to profit in the digital world. Wealthy billionaires have taken to buying American newspapers to add to their trophy cases. People are literally treating newspapers like priceless relics, akin to mummies brought back to Europe in the early 1900s.
While the desire to buy print media might be diminishing, the need for information isn’t. In fact, it’s the quite the opposite, people want more information faster than ever. Meade poetically said that Lloyd’s List started as a notice posted in a coffee shop, but thanks to the digital age can now be read in coffee shops the world over.
Herein lies the light at the end of the tunnel, the tiny sprouts that grow after a forest fire, and the butterfly breaking through its cocoon. Yes, publications are in a dark era in their history right now, but they have the potential to become something amazing.
The success and failure of brands like Newsweek, the Washington Post, and Lloyd’s List hangs on the ability to monetize. While stopping the presses might cut costs, it’s not doing much by way of bringing in revenue. At this point, most print publications have two options. The first is monetization of the website: charging visitors to access content, increasing banner ad costs and placement. The second is finding alternative revenue through current resources: using printing presses for private printing, starting private delivery systems, etc.
As tempted as I was to write an article mourning the loss of print journalism, I have to stand by Meade and approach digital media with excitement and hope. Lloyd’s List isn’t crashing and burning, it’s moving on to its next stage in history.