Print media obsolescent

Saturday Night, one of Canada’s oldest and most storied magazines, announced recently they are moving from publishing 12 issues per year to a weekly format. The magazine explains the move on their web-site by stating, "the new Saturday Night weekly will be the most exciting and innovative thing to happen in the magazine publishing industry in a long time."

It’s also very likely the National Post , who distribute Saturday Night free to their subscribers, is orchestrating this move in order to boost what critics are politely calling sagging circulation.

However, the Post is not the only publication who may be losing readers– especially the younger demographic–as the same critics are quick to point out. Recent NADbank figures show older, wealthier people are the primary readers of newspapers. Younger people are finding alternative ways to gather their information, primarily through the Internet.

With their future readers looking elsewhere, Canadian media is acknowledging a crisis that affects not only the Post but every newspaper and magazine in print format. They don’t say it in words, but proof of mass-media’s concern lies in changing coverage (increasing sensationalism), increased self-promotion (a barrage of local and national TV commercials), and gimmicks such as the Calgary Sun offering AirMiles or the Post’s aforementioned change to Saturday Night.

Reasons for the crisis are numerous. The battle for media ownership in Canada has never been so wide-open; in fact, the very nature of newspaper ownership is changing. Old-school media barons like Ken Thomson are selling the majority of their papers, and giant mega-conglomerates are jostling to snap them up. Even Conrad Black is considering selling some of his metropolitan dailies. The alternative news format presented by the web is increasingly attractive to a technologically inclined society. Costs to print newspapers are enormous compared to the cost to publish online. Plus, advertisers are flocking to the web for its cheaper rates and ability to target specific markets.

Typically, when consumers question traditional forms of media, the response usually consists of the "media-is-essential-to-democracy" argument. When owners, or worse, advertisers are the ones calling media into question, the response is usually one of self-defence followed by a hasty self-examination. When readership drops considerably, as it has from the last generation to this generation, something has to give.

The future of Canadian print media is uncertain. They will have to act fast if they are to maintain a place in the hearts and minds of Canadians as "the" source for news and information.

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