Toronto Mike

Print Journalism in this Digital Age

Reports of the demise of print journalism are greatly exaggerated. Print's not dead, it's just moving from dead trees to digital. The challenge for newspapers will be creating a model that can be fully funded in an environment of decreasing ad revenue. A paid subscription model is the obvious move here, but this is a little like trying to get toothpaste back in the tube. For better or worse, people have grown rather used to reading news for free online.

Look no further than the music industry. In the age of Napster, record sales started to plummet. Instead of adapting, the music industry put their collective heads in the sand and waited for this whole Internet fad to blow over. The rest, is history.

Help from the federal government is apparently on the way. Finance Minister Bill Morneau has announced $595 million in tax incentives to help with the labour costs associated with reporting, as well as tax credits for subscribers to digital news services.

"To protect the vital role that independent news media play in our democracy and in our communities, we will be introducing measures to help support journalism in Canada," Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in his speech to the House of Commons.
The full details of the program won't be available until the next federal budget, after the government receives advice from an independent panel from the journalism community.
The goal is for the program to be funded by the government but have no role for politicians to decide what constitutes a media outlet or who would be eligible. That way, the government hopes to avoid the appearance of conflict between a free press and government influence.

That will help, but an economic model that ensures print journalism survives is still badly needed. $595 million in tax incentives is akin to a bandaid. You still need to treat the wound to stop the bleeding.

With emerging digital-first organizations like The Athletic making impressive strides, my money is on print adapting and eventually thriving in this new economy.

The Athletic continues to grow, having recently raised another $20 million. All eyes are on "the new sports page" as they rapidly expand.

The Athletic plans to use most of the financing to continue its expansion across the U.S., establishing a presence in every market with a professional sports team by the end of the year. By the end of 2018, the Athletic plans to have between 200 and 350 employees, up from its current staff of 120. The company currently has a foothold in 23 markets across the U.S. and Canada, and plans to expand to roughly 45 markets by the end of the year.

At the end of the day, quality content is king, and there will always be an appetite for that. Here's hoping.

Here are some print journalists who have made the trek to my home studio for an episode of Toronto Mike'd.


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