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- BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Since the predictions of Marshall McLuhan about the global village phenomenon, there has been an unequalled surge in the introduction of new and better information tools, which, are increasingly complementing and replacing older traditional tools of mass information. New media delivery systems, new information processing, storage and retrieval systems have become the vogue. Currently, newspapers and magazines make use of the World Wide Web (www) among other services of the net to create and maintain web servers in which they publish contents of their papers. The flourishing of newspapers and magazines online may not be unconnected with some possible secondary reasons- including enthusiasm for new technology and the general sense that one wishes to be part of the new wave at the moment not minding the adverse consequences.
Therefore, if these speculations and assumptions are true, then the production and distribution of the print editions of newspapers may be hampered thereby impinging on the revenue profile of some newspaper organizations. Above all, this phenomenon may signal an attempt at subsuming and fusing the Print Newspaper into the fast-paced communication technologies which are daily bestriding the communication space.
In the colonial days, tavern readership of newspapers was marked by interaction and argument, in which news stories served as what one historian in America described as “gambits, provocative first moves in a game the reader would then play”. Newspapers of the 19th century were usually read to the family and interpreted by the man of the house. Twentieth-century news saw the TV anchor assume that role, and some observers believe that today’s Internet news returns us to the spirit of the tavern as people discuss news items in forum of various types(Rodman, 2010: 109).
Rodman further states that, “changes in readership naturally affect the structure of the industry. Over the years, for example, readers moved from the cities to the suburbs, and the industry followed as the city papers died and new suburban papers were born”(2010: 109).
However, the advent of the Information Communication Technology (ICT) has changed the patronage level of the mainstream media (Newspaper, Radio and Television), especially the Newspaper, which has been the oldest among the trio.
At the moment, newspaper publishers make use of t he World Wide Web (www) among other services provided by the ICT to create and maintain web servers in which they publish contents of their papers. This is a departure from the traditional hard or print copy that has lasted over centuries.
The flourishing of newspapers online may not be unconnected with some possible secondary reasons- including the urge for new technology and the general sense that one wishes to be part of the new trend at the moment not minding the adverse consequences. And if these assumptions are true, then the readership of the print editions may be hampered thereby impinging on the revenue profile of some newspaper organizations.
Therefore, this phenomenon may signal the possibility of low patronage by readers who may be technology savvies. From the newspaper industry’s point of view, an alarming trend among changing patterns of readership is generally lower circulation and, more ominously, a lower readership among young people, who are failing to take up the newspaper-reading habits of their parents. The average age of today’s newspaper reader is 53. The industry worries about its future readers, especially since many advertisers want to sell to people between 18 and 25 (Rodman, 2010: 109).
He continued that “newspapers are, however, making frantic efforts to connect with today’s increasing distracted and time-pressed younger readers. And several publishers have put out free condensed papers in a tabloid format designed to attract readers”.
The surge in the introduction of new and better information tools, courtesy the advent of Information Communication Technology has increasingly complemented and replaced older traditional tools of mass information. New media delivery systems, new information processing, storage and retrieval systems, and readership pattern have irresistibly dominated the communication scene.
This has led Dennen (2009) to ask whether newspapers are losing gross audience, or the audience is simply shifting online; or whether the online and print audiences differ. Another question is whether newspaper sites are performing relative to other online news outlets.
Apart from this seemingly odious situation about the print newspaper, McNamara (2000) states that about 20% of US public obtain daily news from the internet. The online newspaper may slow down revenue in the print newspapers and therefore capable of putting newspapers and to some large extent magazines out of business.
McNamara (2000) states that,
Newspapers sites must look for alternative ways to offset that revenue from other online sources. Clearly, newspapers face much greater competition from online for news and information than they did in an earlier time of three TV networks, local radio, and print newspapers. All of these legacy media are using the Internet as an alternative channel for distributing news; and the portals, as well as pure-play news sites, add to the competitive dynamic. Jay Leno included in one of his monologues recently a word of congratulation to the New York Times for being in business for 158 years. The punch line, however, was that he had read about the milestone on the Internet. Such is the state of the newspaper industry lately, as print editions struggle with eroding readership and advertising revenue, and online – while growing modestly – fails to fill the void on the more important metric of revenue.
While examining the growth in online newspaper site visitors relative to the decline in print readership audiences, and to what degree readers of the print edition, Dennen (2009) discovered that readers are moving to online newspaper sites for their news, either exclusively (i.e., they are becoming only online news readers) or as a complement to their print news reading.
Newspapers by using the web are connected to the internet via Local Area Network (LAN) that is directly connected to the Net via an Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) facilities. In this way the electronic pages of newspapers are brought to the doorsteps of readers in Nigeria and foreign countries as long as these people are connected to the Net.
Patronage of Online Newspapers may be a result of the following factors; to pass time and or entertain themselves, to decide on which of the newspapers to buy during the day, to fulfill official assignments and demands, to quench the taste and desire for news, to keep abreast of contemporary and burning national issues, to get the summary of the day’s news, to gather information and education in their chosen carriers, to meet and fulfill their academic and research needs.
- STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Newspapers have since the advent of online newspapers, courtesy the platform provided the technology of Information Communication Technology (ICT) has been undergoing some salient challenges, as far as readers’ patronage is concern. This scenario is capable of forcing the print newspaper out of circulation if concrete steps are not taken.
Dennen (2009), states that the number of readers of print newspapers across the world is down by11 percent in the past year, from 86.4 million in April 2008 to 76.7 million in April 2009, but the total number of visitors to the online newspapers category is up by 5 percent during that same period. Clearly, the decline in the number of print readers (+9.7 million people) is far greater than the increase in the number of online newspaper readers (+3.2 million) in the United States of America.
Therefore, this study is concerned with examining the readership profile and strength of the print newspapers in Nigeria, vis-à-vis the competition posed by the introduction of the online edition brought by the emerging trend provided by the Information Communication Technology.
- OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The objectives of this study are:
- To examine the readership level of the print newspapers and the online newspaper in Plateau State.
- To find out if Nigerians prefer reading online newspapers to print newspapers
- To examine the viability of the print newspaper business as far as readership is concerned in relationship to online newspapers
- RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- What is the readership level of print and online newspapers in Plateau State?
- Do people read print newspapers more than they read online newspapers?
- Is the Online Newspaper a threat to the Print Newspapers?
- Would the Print Newspapers go into extinction as a result of the threat posed by Online Newspapers?
- SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study would be beneficial to investors in the newspaper publishing industry and would also answer salient questions such as: Are newspapers losing gross audience, or is the audience simply shifting online? How do these online and print audiences differ? How are newspaper sites performing relatively to other online news outlets?
This study shall also help in proffering solutions and add knowledge, as well as give direction to those in the print newspaper business on how to generate and maintain a good population of readers; in spite of the challenges posed by the online staples.
Apart from these, it shall also provide insights to students and scholars who may want to also conduct further research on this topic. The study is also significant because there is an increased option for people to read news globally.
1.6 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
The study is anchored on the Uses and Gratification Theory, which according to Katz, Blumer and Guverich (1974) has introduced a new phase in mass media research challenging the traditional focus of what the media does to audience, to what the audiences do with the media.
The research work has also focused on why the audiences use the media and the purpose for which it is used (Baran and Davis, 2009); which denotes the Uses and Gratification Theory. This theory states that consumers of media content do so, on account of what is of interest, gratifying, and that which gives certain satisfaction to them.
The Uses and Gratification Theory has been identified as a model of communication research which seeks to explain issues on the basis of audience’s subjective account of the media experience and the functions a particular kind of content serves in particular circumstances.
Worthy of note is the fact that Uses and Gratification approach consist of an individual and/or groups who are subjected to certain pressures by their social environment; the pressure subjectively felt needs and these in turn lead to behavior directed towards satisfaction of these needs and included in it, is mass media use. Therefore, the researcher deliberately anchored this study on the Uses and Gratification Theory because the theory gives readers of both the print newspapers and online newspapers a choice to make between the two staples based on their personal needs and gratification.
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The scope of this study is on the readership of both the print and online newspapers, with particular reference to the newspaper industry in Nigeria.
The study shall comparatively examine the readership level of print newspapers and online newspapers among particularly, Civil Servants, Media Professionals and Students in Jos, Plateau State.
Apart from these, the study would also compare the readership level of the print newspaper to the one in the online editions between the periods of June, 2014 to August, 2014.
1.8 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
This research was limited by several variables, particularly with regards to logistics and dearth of local literature, reason being that there were no adequate materials on online newspapers in this part of the world. The attitude of respondents was equally not encouraging, as the researcher found it difficult to convince respondents to fill the research questionnaire. Added to these is the fact that the online newspapers genre is not yet popular among the elderly who read newspapers the most.
1.9 DEFINITIONS OF TERMS
NEWSPAPER: Means a publication issued at regular and usually close intervals, especially daily or weekly, and commonly containing news, comment, features, and advertising.
PRINT NEWSPAPER: The term refers to newspapers that are produced using ink and paper (Cambridge Learner Dictionary 3rd ed).
ONLINE NEWSPAPERS: An online newspaper, also called a web newspaper, is actually a daily newspaper that is published and read over the World Wide Web or Internet. It can be an individual daily that is available online only or it could be an online version of a printed periodical (Giavedoni, 2010).
READERSHIP: A group or number of people who read a particular newspaper. Total number of primary and pass-along readers of a publication, the people who read or are thought to read a particular book, newspaper, magazine, etc.
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