Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Impact of Social Change on Newspaper Examined

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Impact of Social Change on Newspaper Examined

Article excerpt

Changes in social structures will favor those newspapers which can recognize them and adapt accordingly, according to Jane Lewis, an analyst with London's Henley Center for Forecasting's Social Futures.

Speaking at last week's International Newspaper Marketing Association conference in Phoenix, Lewis examined the impact of social change on newspapers.

Across the developed world, the emergence of a service-based economy has created a demand for skilled, knowledge-based workers, and an economy that must respond quickly to changing consumer demand, Lewis said.

There also is more affluence than in the past and more women working both full- and part-time. These factors have created fragmentation in consumer choices and lifestyles.

Audiences are becoming more thinly spread across an increasingly complex range of media outlets," Lewis said. Fragmentation exists not only in consumer audiences, but in consumer lifestyles as well.

An illustration of this is the changing structure of work. A service- and knowledge-based economy does not demand a homogeneous work force, clocking in and out at the same time every day, she said.

"The rise of flexible working arrangements is crucial to newspapers, because so much of our media time is a matter of habit"' Lewis said.

The powerful influence of habit is the force behind current media patterns, and, Lewis asked, "How will media survive in an era of flexible time patterns? Will people still watch television at the same time when they're coming home from work at two one day and seven the next?"

Strength over television

In this area, newspapers have a "real strength" compared to television, Lewis said. However, "the decline in the regular structure of the day does mean that regular newspaper reading will continue to be threatened."

This, she said, highlights the importance of editorial and promotional strategies to encourage everyday purchase.

The Henley Center's research indicates that in the United Kingdom, the importance of television may have been exaggerated "because ... when you ask people how often they talk about what they encounter in the media, it's clear that newspapers too play a crucial role in social interaction"

People discuss what they read about in the paper and "newspapers remain a key part of our lives"' Lewis said.

After 50 years, "television has not supplanted the newspaper as a key driver of social interaction, a media which provides common points of reference for social groups," Lewis said. …

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