When was the last time you went to a newspaper stand to buy the printed copy of your favorite paper? I can wager a bet that many people who come online to read Nigeria News have never bought a single newspaper. What is the point when you can get the latest news fresh while sitting at home or in your office all day long?
The last time I bought a paper was about 6 years ago or thereabouts. I was still a wide-eyed youth filled with enthusiasm about the political future of this country. And that paper was 234Next on Sunday.
The paper was produced in the classic tabloid tradition. It was huge. You needed to fold it twice to carry it about comfortably. The best idealistic Nigerian writers and journalists all congregated there. 234Next was fresh and the contents were groundbreaking.
It was because of the paper I could stand up confidently and tell my incredulous friends that President Yar’Adua wasn’t going to come back to Nigeria from Saudi Arabia as president. The paper had the inside track and came up with scoop after scoop.
Where is 234Next today? Have you heard of corruption fighting back before? The paper was one of the hapless victims of corruption ‘fighting back’ in 2012. The people in power weren’t comfortable with it.
So much for history.
These days, the media landscape In Nigeria is totally different from what it used to be. Traditional media houses and newspapers are struggling to survive. This problem is replicated all over the world.
Perhaps, if the creators of the Internet had known reputable media houses would be the unintended victims of the World Wide Web revolution, they would’ve killed it.
No, not really. Looking at the bigger picture, the Internet has benefitted the world much more than we have lost from the demise of the old ways of reporting the news.
The reality of today is that only a tiny minority of people in Nigeria still buy newspapers from vendors. And that number is shrinking daily as the older citizens who still prefer newspapers are dying off one by one.
Adaption for the old established media houses came in the way of taking their news online and making it free for people to read. It was either that or go bust.
But some still went bust after going online because they refused to adapt to the new ways. They wanted to bend the will of the Internet to dance to their own music.
It is sad to see the old ways dying. Established media houses can’t pay journalist decent salaries as ads revenue shrink. This has affected the quality of output of journalists working for these print media houses.
The journalists cut corners or accept money from the high and mighty and report what these people want the rest of us to read.
Sometimes, you can’t blame these journalists as they are in a very vulnerable position. They need to pay bills and take care of their families like everybody else.
It is tough for journalists in Nigeria Today.
Here is the thing; though all the traditional media houses in Nigeria are now online, they are not competing with their peers anymore. The new rules mean the biggest threats to their survival are just about anybody persistent enough to aggregate news on a website and offer them free.
These new news websites are not hard to set up and overheads are nothing compared to the old guard.
It is with these new media houses they have to compete with to attract as many readers as possible from around the world. That is how they hope to make money from Google ads since making money is directly linked to website traffic.
To be fair most of the old guard are not doing badly online as far as traffic is concerned. Guardian, Punch, Thisday, Vanguard, Tribune, etc. get hundreds of thousands of daily page views. But apart from Vanguard, they don’t get as much as the new breeds like Daily Post and Naij.com.
Some might argue that it is because the old names are held back by a reluctance to completely embrace the techniques of online news reporting.
For instance, their headlines are never catchy or clickable. This is why the new media on the block have excelled. The headlines they attach to every story instantly invites people to and see what lies behind the headline.
This is one facet of fake news that is stoking the fires of divisions worldwide. Because the new media landscape is a struggle for eyeballs, fake news with catchy, ‘clickbaity’ headlines rules the roost.
I am sure organisations like the Guardian would never descend to that level. And that is where they and their peers take a hit in terms of ad revenue from Google.
I started by asking the last time you bought a newspaper. In a few years, given how news dissemination and consumption are changing, that question could be, ‘When was the last time you saw a newspaper?’
Newspapers are today’s dinosaurs soon to be extinct.