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3 Trends Most Likely to Impact Future of Newspaper Cartoons
While we all sit around trying to think of what the newspaper based cartooning industry is going to look like in the next 5-10 years, I’ve found three stories that I believe indicate factors and trends that will have a big impact on print cartooning.
Firstly Gannett newspapers are looking to reduce their paper size from 48 inches to 44 inches. Keep in mind this is right after a two year conversion from 52 inches to 48. While the story only centers on the impact of such a move for logistics, one has to wonder what kind of impact that will have on the funny page. I suspect that as more papers make these types of changes, comics will have to be dropped – I can’t see them shrinking anymore and still be legible to the older generation that still buys newspapers.
Another trend to watch for is the emergence of more free dailies in the US. Europe’s free newspaper market makes up 50% of the market, whereas here in the US they only account for 6%. Free dailies are typically tabloid size and work better for the younger urban demographic who read the papers while commuting on mass transit. Free dailies tend to have less syndicated material and concentrate on local content.
Nizen describes free dailies as, “The Internet in print.” He says people are used to getting their news for free and haven’t developed the habit of paying for it. Younger readers, the coveted 18- to 34-year-old demographic, normally get their news from the Internet or TV. Larsen says even though people pay for Internet access or cable service, people still perceive it as essentially free.
All agree that the strength of free dailies, no matter the size of the market, is that they’re hyper-local. Whether it is reporting on the outcome of a city council meeting or news about the latest hot dance club, the free daily provides information that influences readers in their daily lives.
They also agree that people want a quick read. They don’t have the time to sit down in the morning with their coffee to read a paper cover to cover as people once did, says Del Favero. City Paper normally publishes 24 pages and would probably top out at 48, he says. Nizen believes people won’t spend more than 15 or 20 minutes reading news today, but they want to feel like they have at least a little news.
While syndicated material will be around for a long while, will we see a reemergence of the need for papers to hire a cartoonist or at least buy more local cartoons – to provide local content to differentiate themselves from other news sources?
And lastly, in an editorial over on Market Watch, John Dvorak postulates that the internet is going to kill off “bloated newspapers.”
The reason is simple: In an online world, there are too many bloated newspapers.
What needs to be addressed is the simple concept of redundancy. A search in Google News demonstrates the extent of problem. A hot story of any sort might have 1,000 to 2,000 links from 1,000 to 2,000 news outlets.
More often than not, many of the 1,000 to 2,000 stories are the same Associated Press or Reuters reports. In a few rare instances, there will be some additional material contributed by local reporters.
As more newspapers make the mistake of eliminating reporting jobs, they fall into the pit of redundancy with nothing special to offer. There are no foreign correspondents anymore. There are hardly any stringers on the site of a breaking story anymore.
The only papers or news organizations that can expect to survive will be those with lots of original content available only at their individual sites. The operations that rely more on universally available news feeds will be at the mercy of a fickle public — one that doesn’t care where they read a particular story, especially if it is the exact same story with the exact same headline.
Again, the trend may indicate that paper’s need for more local, original content to differential themselves.
All of these make an assumption that publishers and editors will understand the value of comics and want to keep them in their paper. I’m afraid that as the older generation dies out and is replaced by a younger generation who is more likely to peruse through YouTube than they are a comics page that print comics will diminish and disappear entirely.