Due to recent economic developments, magazines, newspapers and the publishing industry as a whole are all in a state of perpetual turmoil, as various publishing houses — including Associated Media Publishing and Caxton CTP Publishers and Printers — have taken their leave.

However, newspapers are taking the biggest hit, particularly in the United Kingdom.

"Senior media figures have warned of the Coronavirus 'perfect storm' hitting newspapers, saying the drop in circulation and ad revenue could lead to some outlets disappearing completely," says Lucy Cotter in an article for Sky News.

Why newspapers, and why now?

The newspapers in the United Kingdom rely heavily on print sales to make up for the online content that is available for free. However, many advertisers are pulling out, as the market diminishes, meaning ad revenue has dropped by tenfold.

"Things they predicted to happen over the next five years have been happening in the space of five weeks," says Jim Waterson, media editor of The Guardian. "So everything that people thought was going to happen in the medium-term has suddenly happened almost overnight."

Waterson describes this downfall of the print industry as the 'perfect storm', as it was an "already struggling industry that has [now] seen one of its main sources of revenue collapse". The future is not looking bright, as these events could see a permanent closure of print outlets.

The first to go? Local newspapers. It seems as if these papers are taking the hardest hit, as, according to Cotter, "50 titles have stopped appearing in print, despite them being a lifeline to local communities and people self-isolating."

Cotter points out the irony of the decline in newspapers, as people are seemingly desperate for any news about COVID-19, and yet, the news online seems to be their go-to. This could be due to the lockdown, as everyone is careful about spending too much time outside their homes and are spending more time online.

However, can the blame be placed on the pandemic alone? According to a Mail & Guardian article written by Gasant Abarder, "to blame Covid-19 would be naïve". The industry was already struggling, and with more people turning to other forms of news outlets — such as social media — the end of this medium has been long-contested.

Although people have tried to remain positive about the plight of print as a medium, many are wondering whether this industry can overcome this storm.

If newspapers were strong to begin with, and had thought of other innovative ways to remain in business after the first digital wave and with the influx of social media, would they still be holding their own? Possibly.

But there is no use in looking back, only forward.

Where to from here?

The newspaper industry is now scratching its head in order to come up with solutions. According to MP Damian Collins, former chair of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee, one answer to this problem is "to capitalise on the success of the Internet; [get] tech giants to pay for the news shared on their sites."

And by tech giants, he means the goliaths like Google, Facebook and Amazon. Unless these companies start investing in the online news placed on websites by these publishers, we could be bringing out the hearse for the print industry.

“If newspapers are to turn the corner, they need to be invested in. Bring back quality journalism and the greybeards. Hire decent sub-editors and pay them properly. It is a long play that will probably never happen,” says Abarder.

It’s not all gloom and doom, however. According to Cotter, some UK publishers are surviving, such as The Sun.

"Papers are still selling and there are more deliveries," says editor Victoria Newton. "And while some ad revenue has gone down, it has increased in other areas." 

Could this be due to a process of innovation? Perhaps.

All said and done, the print industry does need to be more innovative in order to overcome the impact of the pandemic. 'Adapt or die,' as they say.

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