It would not be anything new or surprising to note that the way we get our news is changing. The advent of the internet and digital communications have transformed our regular news habits – killining traditional and local outlets in the progress – and the way those in positions of power communicate with the general population. Like much of the generally accepted elements of culture and society, the innovations of the digital age are challenging traditional journalism.
It seems that the readership of some of Britain’s best known, and most popular newspapers – institutions of the UK’s political and public life – are in terminal decline. The readership of the Sun, for instance, Britain’s most bought newspaper, was down 6.49% between May 2017 and May 2018, representing a readership of 1.47m. Meanwhile, other influential papers fared similarly badly. The controversial right-wing tabloid the Daily Mail dropped by a whopping 11.49% to 1.27m, whilst the left-leaning Guardian lost 8.09% of its readers in the same period.
Whilst other newspapers have taken damage as a result of changing news habits, the Independent became the first casualty of this revolution. It announced in February 2016 that it would be abandoning its traditional print format and become the first – but surely not the last – British newspaper to become online only. The Independent’s case is somewhat unique, however, having been losing money for almost 30 years as a result of a price war with Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Sun and the Times, among other organisations, in the 1990s. In the end it’s daily full-price paying readership was just 40,718.
It is not just the big national papers that are suffering an age where almost all of the information that humanity has ever possessed is available online for free – local media is suffering too. Since 2005 more than 200 local newspapers have been forced to close down and stop publishing quality local news. This has led to the number of people working in local media outlets halving over the same period. As a result 58% of the country lacks a regional or local daily paper, and are increasingly relying on London-based outlets and social media.
And it is the number of people turning to that latter alternative which has been such a significant phenomenon in recent years. Social media companies are now more than just businesses – they have transcended that to become the lifeblood of news, information, and culture. Perhaps the best way to quantify the immense influence that social networks – and the geniuses behind them – have had on the world is their monetary wealth. Mark Zuckerberg, for example, is set to be one of the world’s first trillionaires by 2044 when he is aged 60.
It is the power of the internet, social media, and digital communications which are credited with so many of the biggest political events of recent years. The Leave campaign made use of pioneering technology that had never been used in a UK election to communicate with voters who are usually left out of the process, whilst Donald Trump dominated the headlines and went over the head of traditional media using Twitter. Traditional media is collapsing in significance, and the new world of journalism – online and on social media – is what is deciding the political weather now.