Posted by: Karina of the Fallen Stars | July 10, 2009

Profit vs. Influence

Which is more important, making a profit or exerting an influence over the audience? As we’ve read, most early American newspapers were not so much preoccupied with cashing in as they were with  informing and persuading the Colonial public. Even during the American Revolutionary profit was a secondary trait, whereas lighting the flames of Patriot revolt (and to a lesser extent, bidding for Tory support) was the primary goal. After the Revolution, most of these papers folded. Such was also the case of many Partisan papers, forced to fold because of insufficient funds. Enter: Penny Press, with a price that low and circulation that high, one cannot go wrong. Newspapers had suddenly become a business.

But is this really the right direction for America in the present? The “Newspaper Recession“, as some call it, has taken a significant toll on circulation over the past two decades (with subscriptions dropping 31%). Many social critics and financial experts concur that within a few years newspapers will be a thing of the pass. Here’s one interesting take on the issue. As more newspapers go online, one has to wonder about the effects. For instance, why go to the New York Times website for a fee when you could read articles on the CNN or BBC websites at no cost? I’m assuming this would force such sites to rely more heavily on advertising for revenue as opposed to sales. Would this help boost the economy or put more people in spending debt? Or would it the effects be too minimal to calculate?

Granted, journalism is a career and reporters should get paid. But is press a commodity or an inalienable right? Sometimes that line is blurred, especially with more and more individuals logging on to check their news online. I am not entirely sure what direction our press is heading in. However, were I in the shoes of a reporter making this choice, I would rather my articles easily reach audiences rather than make a significant profit on a much smaller audience.

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