How the Canadian Newspaper Industry Can Adapt to Changes
By Jean-Adrien Delicano, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire
Another month, another round of layoffs and “restructuring” in the Canadian media world. In March 2017, Postmedia Network, Canada’s largest newspaper company, announced 54 layoffs at the Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province newsrooms.
The struggles faced by Canadian news media professionals are well-documented. Declining advertising dollars, low subscription numbers, and the emergence and disruption of digital have all contributed to the financial hardships affecting many Canadian news publications.
Perhaps none have been affected more than print newspapers. Across Canada, newspapers ranging from local dailies to national media are dealing with organizational restructuring, as they layoff long-tenured journalists and make changes to employee contracts and benefits.
John Hinds of News Media Canada (formerly Newspapers Canada) is well aware of the issues and concerns of newspaper professionals. As CEO of an organization that represents newspapers across Canada and provides a wide range of services to their media members, Hinds knows firsthand the main challenge that the newspaper industry is facing.
“Like any news business, they’re challenged and the big challenge we all face, the real frustration, is the idea that people aren’t reading newspapers anymore and I think that’s really wrong,” Hinds says. “All the data shows that people are reading newspapers more than ever… it’s just that newspaper companies are having a hard time monetizing those readers and monetizing their content.”
“It’s a business challenge, not a reader challenge.”
Hinds likes to reiterate the message that people are reading newspapers and that media professionals should not buy into the idea that journalism doesn’t matter.
“They’re reading it and they’re reading it across platforms,” he says. “They’re just not reading it the way it used to be read and the unfortunate problem is the creators and owners of that content aren’t able to monetize it the way they used to.”
Causes for Optimism
With advancements in technology and new found ways to do things, the future of media can be bright. Hinds is optimistic that the newspaper industry can take advantage.
“We don’t have a reader problem, or a viewer problem, or an audience problem, that’s the thing,” Hinds says. “We just have to look at ways of monetizing content and there are some really interesting things happening out there.
(John Hinds, CEO of News Media Canada pictured right)
“When you look at La Presse, with them going fully tablet, that is world-leading…there is no other major daily newspaper in the world that has done what they’ve done,” he continues. “There’s also the Winnipeg Free Press, which has a fantastic micropayment thing set up.”
Even with all of that, the fact remains that the backbone of the industry are the journalists themselves. Hinds commends them on their abilities to quickly and efficiently bring the news to readers every day.
“I admire journalists today,” he says. “It used to be that you had a 24-hour news cycle and now you have a 24-second news cycle.”
“And they’re trying to do that on 4 or 5 platforms,” he continues. “So they’re doing audio, they’re doing video, print, and I just admire the skill that is required now to do credible journalism and to do it fast.”
Dealing with Fake News
Another challenge that the news media has had to face recently is the rise of fake news. But Hinds sees this as another way for newspapers to stake their claim as the bringers of true and accurate information.
“In a funny way, fake news has been a boon to newspapers and their sites,” Hinds says. “People will see something on social media, they’ll want to fact check it and their source for fact checking is a credible news site, which is a newspaper.”
“I think that’s a real strength of the medium… to continue to deliver credible news.”
End of Mass Media?
Ultimately, Hinds believes that the future of newspaper media lies with their ability to connect with their readers and provide them with useful content that is relevant to their interests.
“Newspaper companies are being challenged to do things differently and now, community papers are much more vertically integrated…they’re doing magazines, tradeshows, and events,” Hinds says.
“It’s a much broader thing, but it’s all building on that community of interest or geographic community,” he continues. “I kind of think that the days of the mass media are over and it’s about much more niche media, identifying your audience, and having them pay for that content in some way.”
“I’m not one who says the industry is dead…It’s going through challenges, but the demand is there for the content.”