The political economy of the ‘new’ news environment

The title of this article refers to a study that Des Freedman, a scholar in Communication, wrote to analyse how the economy affects the production of news. Thus, Freedman insists on the idea that selling a printed newspaper as we do it nowadays is not an effective way of catching society or maintaining a business.

Still, Freedman is one of the few people who say that newspapers will not disappear although the number of issues sold decrease everyday. What is more, he does not think that digital newspapers are the guilties about the decline of printed newspapers. What he defends is that printed newspapers have suffered many other crisis, and they have overcomed all of them.

In this sense, he proposes some solutions so that the number of printed newspapers sold can increase or, at least, can be maintained: to have a digital edition, which has to be totally different from the printed one. That is, to understand that an online newspaper cannot be just an extension of the printed version. Still, he warns the media: you cannot invest too much money on a digital edition because maybe you can destroy the printed version –in this sense, he says that we cannot practise ‘cannibalism’ when potentiating digital newspapers. We cannot forget that printed newspapers are the ones that really generate benefits to the business since a digital newspaper is mainly free.

Freedman also studies the question of incomes. He assures that digital newspapers are embedded on a vicious circle; that is, they need audience to get money thanks to advertising but, at the same time, they need money to get a quality newspaper. Generally, the economic environment of the media is not hopeful at all. Free newspapers, less interest from society, the birth of new communication businesses, aggregators or the fact that readers do not want to pay for a digital edition of a newspaper complicate the situation.  Newspapers cannot do anything else but to face this situation in an intuitive way and try to save it.

Thanks to the study by Freeman we see that the media context is not easy at all and that journalists have to adapt to the economic situation in an intuitive way. Readers do not want to pay for an online newspaper but businesses cannot delete the printed edition because this is the one that really generates incomes. Again, a vicious circle that need to be solved so that printed newspapers do not disappear.

Àngels Mulet

Trainee student at Signe Words