Newspapers are dying, they say, their sales dwindling due to the popularity of east access, online copy that gets updated multiple times an hour, not once a day before printing. Newspapers need to change their business model, they say, to compensate for falling revenue they'll need to tap into new markets or adept old ones in order to make them economically viable. I suppose all of this is true; they're a business and businesses need to make money otherwise they go under. If they are a publicly traded or owned by a publicly traded company they are required by law to do everything in their power to increase shareholder value, anything less would be negligent.
Many newspaper have very cleverly started to increase interest in their product by offering many of their pieces online. These are usually wires or shorter pieces of existing copy that are meant to entice people into reading the whole story in their newspaper. This has sparked a switch from being a newspaper to a news organization, where not all of the exposure comes from paper copy but from digital copy, too. Unfortunately, this quickly lead to a over-saturation of online news due to the many sources of news online; setting up and maintaining a simple news service is not hard and with enough visitors subscribing to wires and news content became economically viable by selling advertising space.
Effectively, news organizations were feeding the growth of the online news business while simultaneously seeing their own amount of visitors decline. More sites were vying for the same readers while the news was generated by a select few parties. Again, news organizations were in trouble, the success of their new business model leading to a further decline in interest for their paper copies and stiff competition from parties who only needed to worry about design and presentation of content and not about generating content themselves. Usually these parties were making quite a bit of money off of advertising and quickly news generating organizations needed to find a way to make money off of their websites.
They obvious choices were to scale down the print copies, to scale up digital copies and allowing users to pay for content or to start selling advertising space in order to cover the costs. One didn't seem to work due to a decline in interest in in-depth pieces and the other meant eroding a news organization's independence.
Our ADD-addled culture makes it nearly impossible for a lot of people to take the time to read the in-depth information on a lot of the current items, even if the readers are genuinely interested in the subject. Most people can only deal with so much information, or simply don't have the time to sit down and read articles all the way through, especially when you consider that globalization and online news consumption has made the world a small place. Where first you'd only concern yourself with the things most immediate to you, now everything seems immediate. Also, the supply of news is now a 'round the clock affair and the demand for news is so high that news organizations have become very good at not only spreading out a story, but also hyping up stories with little news value. Where first they would collate, edit and print a news story, now you get micro-updates as new details are made available. You could turn following the news into a demand, full time affair, and some people do, compiling the news and creating executive summaries for those without the time to keep up with the latest news. And so, the news trickles down, waters down, losing much of the critical content. All of it means we have less tolerance for detail and more demand for talking points, highlights and headlines.
When newspapers generate revenue through advertisement they automatically become an organization to be distrusted. It means they can no longer speak freely on critical and decisive subjects in fear of losing advertisers. There has always been a field of tension between journalists and editors -- a journalist writes an unpopular piece that borders on effusive and the news organization might lose subscribers, who are individuals making their choice of media consumption. The tension increases when the needs of the advertisers are catered to, their need being a largest possible group of consumers liking their brand, product or service. It means that it is in the interest of the advertiser to publish their ads in a publication that appeals to the biggest common denominator, also known as the dumbest common denominator. There are many different advertisers who don't look at it that way, but they are generally at the fringe. So, when a journalist steps away from the party line, advertisers pull their ads, news organizations lose money and are required to withdraw the piece, publish a rectification or fire the journalist in order to please the wounded advertiser. That's self-induced censorship and unhealthy to the journalistic landscape.
No, newspaper need to remain independent. If an individual cancels their subscription it's a choice, if an advertiser sends that same message, it's censorship and the choice is made for the subscribers without their knowledge. Thus the only safe way for news organizations to generate revenue is for people to realize that this is actually important and that good journalism coats money. Once we are prepared to pay for our news content we'll have more certainty of an unbiased opinion.