The Death Cycle of Newspapers

sorryThe London Standard today told readers “Sorry For Losing Touch”.

There are 5 stages to the loss, grief, death cycle according to Kubler-RossOpens in a new tab.:

  1. Denial:
    Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. This feeling is generally replaced with heightened awareness of situations and individuals that will be left behind after death.
    Example – “I feel fine.”; “This can’t be happening, not to me.”
  2. Anger:
    Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Any individual that symbolizes life or energy is subject to projected resentment and jealousy.
    Example – “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; “Who is to blame?”
  3. Bargaining:
    The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the person is saying, “I understand I will die, but if I could just have more time…”
    Example – “Just let me live to see my children graduate.”; “I’ll do anything for a few more years.”; “I will give my life savings if…”
  4. Depression:
    During the fourth stage, the dying person begins to understand the certainty of death. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This process allows the dying person to disconnect themself from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer an individual up that is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed.
    Example – “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m going to die . . . What’s the point?”; “I miss my loved one, why go on?”
  5. Acceptance:
    This final stage comes with peace and understanding of the death that is approaching. Generally, the person in the fifth stage will want to be left alone. Additionally, feelings and physical pain may be non-existent. This stage has also been described as the end of the dying struggle.
    Example – “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”

Where do you think heritage media are at? By heritage media, I mean those newspapers, TV, film, radio etc that are refusing to implement social strategies to leverage a global shift in creation, distribution and consumption of media. Hat tip @GaryPHayes Opens in a new tab.who asked on Twitter:

@adevenish Indeed. Wonder where Press are in the sequence 1.Denial 2.Anger 3.Bargaining 4.Depression 5.Acceptance. Probably 2.5 ? (hereOpens in a new tab.)


These are examples of denial I think. Straight out, social media isn’t even a force to be considered:

  • Listen to the part at 4:30 mins in.  And this comment on the YouTube comment stream is beautiful “I’m doing a report/presentation on this subject for school. I’m going to use this video to show to the class. Thanks!” I wonder if the teacher will send the student back to buy a newspaper to research the decline of media on a YouTube video of swiped CNN footage?
  • Twitter not as good as newspapers for building community (The AustralianOpens in a new tab.)


Last year, Andrew Keen (rabid Twitterer AJKeenOpens in a new tab.) brought out a book, The Cult of the Amateur. It’s subtitle?

How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy

The book is chockfull of quotes from media types explaining that social media is amateur (in a bad way), full of copyright piracy, plagiarism, weakens traditional media and creative institutions. We’ve had our fair share here in Australia:

  • Australian Media: Just Stop It (2007Opens in a new tab.)
  • Facebook costing Australian Businesses $5billion per year (Sydney Morning HeraldOpens in a new tab.)
  • Forums are full of negativity (nothing positive) SMH and responseOpens in a new tab.
  • Self Obsessed bloggers caught up in the ‘net (hereOpens in a new tab.)

Well, you know the drill. Second Life is dying (every month it has it’s most concurrent users ever), cyberbullying, paedophiles, they are pretty pissed with social networks, user generated content and blogs. The thought we could entertain, inform, educate and amuse ourselves makes for some very grumpy faces.


Ah, here we are.  The “we’re sorry and we’ll be good from now on” stage.

“London’s spiteful evening newspaper tries to convince lost readers it’s changed its ways. ” Flickr

The Evening Standard launches SORRY campaign.

  • Sorry for being negative
  • Sorry for losing touch
  • Sorry for being predictable
  • Sorry for being complacent
  • Sorry for taking you for granted

Sorry we are doing this on a non interactive billboard instead of on forums, blogs and Twitter?


Anyway (editorsweblog.orgOpens in a new tab.):

The ad campaign is the brainchild of global advertising agency, McCann Erickson.

The publicity campaign was given the go-ahead following research work commissioned by editor Geordie Greig, who took over the reigns from Veronica Wadley in February. Greig’s appointment came just after Alexander Lebedev bought the Evening Standard from the Daily Mail & General Trust for £1. DMGT retain a 24.9% interest.


It is upsetting to watch as 6000+ journalists lose their jobs across America. On Twitter, the #journchat channel often reveals sacked journalists saying they feel like old dogs having to learn new tricks.


Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

For every time there’s been a petty snipe such as the Bloggers are Losers article I got pulled into,  I’ve observed bright intelligent minds questioning and learning, gracious, articulate and helpful.  Which makes sites like NewspaperDeathWatch Opens in a new tab.all the more poignant, as you watch the passing parade of terminal broadsheets.


And the bizarrely balanced between depression and acceptance, Rocky Mountain News reporting on it’s own closure  – on Twitter.

The meeting has broken up. Many are crowding into the conference room to see the first Rocky.

Temple: “Thank you everybody for everything you done for this newspaper. It’s been a pleasure to work with you. Thank you.”

Temple: “We’re printing 50 percent more papers for tomorrow.”

Temple: “We’ve had a very beautiful thing here. You realize it when you start losing it. It’s torturous how I feel.”

Temple invites everyone to go to conference room to see the first edition of the Rocky Mountain News.


This is where newspapers incorporate social media into their strategies. Lots of bloggers have an opinion on that. Twitter feedsOpens in a new tab., eBay trust style secondhand classifieds, open outsourcing job classifieds, you’ve heard me rant enough on them before:

…but one thing: blogs with comments is not a community. You need Reason/Purpose, Values, Identity, Trust, Profiles, Influencers, Roles, Swarms, Economies (Trustonomics), Events, Rites of Passage, to get the sort of behaviour on a newspaper community site that leads to readership, spending, brand loyalty and longevity. None of which are being practiced in depth in Australian media sites.  I’m sorry but that’s true – nothing I see is close to building a social network online . Australian newspapers have their content with crappy comments, not true community. And that’s as snipey as I get in this post. I’m sure that some of you reading are just itching to say that we bloggers are rude and obscenely joyful at the decline of traditional media but in my case that simply isn’t true. I’m pretty sure there’s denial that the loss of jobs at Fairfax, the lack of media spend on TV ads, the closure of community newspapers in the States. That all of it is due to the global financial crisis and things will bob back up soon. That I’m being a negative nelly and should be ashamed of myself. But I can’t write what I don’t believe in… I’m just blogging the world as I see it.

So now, every time I get a comment screaming at me (Anger), refusing the evidence (Denial), asking me to consider XYZ and reconsider blah blah (Bargaining), I can tell people what stage of grief that are at.  That will help them a lot. (Not).

I truly hope we see a halt to this cycle of death for heritage media. Perhaps I’m still at stage one – denial – but I seriously want to see our cultural newsgatherers evolve into something that bridges broadcast, trained journalism and the raw, ripple nature of citizen sourced content.  This is not the death of journalism. But I don’t see an island of esteemed journalists surrounded by hordes swilling lowgrade content either.  We’ll see.

Laurel Papworth

Named by Forbes™ Magazine in the Top 50 Social Media Influencers globally, named Head of Industry, Social Media (Marketing Magazine™) and in the Power150 Media bloggers (AdAge™). CERT IV Training and Assessment certified trainer (Diplomas and Certificates etc) Adult Education. Laurel has manager Facebook Pages for Junior Masterchef, Idol, Big Brother etc. and have consulted on private online communities for banks Westpac, not for profits UNHCR & governments in SE Asia. Lecturer, social media, University of Sydney for 10 years and Laurel has 11,000 online students. Laurel Papworth personally connects to 6 million followers online and has taught around 100,000 people in the last 10 years how to be social media managers.

29 thoughts on “The Death Cycle of Newspapers

  1. Is it fair to condense newspapers, TV, and film –film?– into the same category?

    Newspapers are reacting to advertisers going online, TV is providing online alternatives, e.g. Hulu, and film is a completely different medium.

    Ari Herzog’s last blog post..Twitter and Me

    1. *puzzled* yes of course, they are all mediums and the medium is changing. While this piece is primarily about Newspapers, my line about film and TV actually says By heritage media, I mean those newspapers, TV, film, radio etc that are refusing to implement social strategies to leverage a global shift in creation, distribution and consumption of media. Not Hulu, but heritage TV (with no online component).

      Here’s my post on the The Future of Cinema. Film is no longer consumed at the box office. Digital Hollywood was yesterday – no doubt dealing with the massive impact online communities, ARGs, social media campaigns, virtual worlds, machinima and so on are making to the traditional film industry.

      I run courses at the Australian Film Television and Radio School on how movies cannot remain isolated from the audience. No content can, anymore. Think of Dark Knight and it’s social media campaign – highest grossing film of last year!

  2. The Death Cycle of Newspapers | Laurel Papworth- Social Network …: When not consulting with companies building.. http://bit.ly/uD27O

  3. Though, it’s worth being conscious that radio is consumed differently than other media, and is generally regarded as more personal and intimate in the first place.

    That having been said, there is a shift in the way that people interact with radio, and perhapps (broadly) this is accepted a little more readily.

    All in all, everyone is changing the way they consume in every medium, and eveyone has to adjust, and that does also include those already publishing online.

    1. Love the last line. the podcast is dead as far as I am concerned – live citizen radio ala blogtalkradio where callers can call in then pushed out as closed finished podcasts are the new model.
      A bit like the current YouTube is dying and not just because of it’s copyright issues. It’s non peer to peer, locked down finished content, not downloadable or editable (though that is also evolving).

      thanks for the paper – will devour on the weekend 🙂

  4. And to throw another idea into the mix:

    Ellie Rennie from the Swinburne University presented a paper “Community Media in the Prosumer Era” was presented at the 2007 CBAA Conference


    1. And also:

  5. Pingback: Typeboard
    1. yeah that’s a similar one to the original (2004?) EPIC 2014 vision from the “Museum of Media History”.

      Coined the word “Googlezon”. 😛

  6. I agree, maybe the newspapers will go down (concerning sales), but newspapers will stand on their feet for those who like to read on paper.
    No matter what kind of support (notebooks, ebooks, or any other electronic format) people will use for newspapers, i am hundred percent sure that readers wil not give up to the classical newspapers.

    No worrys 😉

    mariushim’s last blog post..Operatiunea Monstru – Bicicleta galbena

    1. yeah I heard that from the Typewriter salesman. And I’m pretty sure the horse and buggy guys said “we’ve been around for hundreds of years, we’ll continue to survive.” 😛

      The iPod generation will look at paper, the environment, their iPhone and vote it down. Unfortunately, cos I too like the smell and feel of newspaper.

      The fact that physical newspapers will no longer be able to bear the cost of their own weight is without dispute, surely? It’s more the shape and form the online version will take, perhaps? Though I did hear of perhaps governments subsidizing physical paper newspapers. Dont’ see it myself though… where is autonomy in a gov funded newspaper? Though I guess public broadcasting does well enough.

      1. Brother still make ONE typewriter!
        trippy! 🙂 And I learned to type on a typewriter… weird!

  7. I’m not sure we will lose newspapers altogether, but there is a definite shift needed. As mentioned the cycle is there and I feel many are just stuck in the denial stage. The thing is users dictate what will be by buying newspapers etc so if the papers lose touch with the upcoming generation then their sales will reflect it. If more people are advertising online or finding other medium more effective, then newspapers have to get with the program. No good being in denial, angry or anything else. How they do that is the question.
    .-= seo´s last blog ..What is the Future of PageRank? =-.

  8. I’m not sure we will lose newspapers altogether, but there is a definite shift needed. As mentioned the cycle is there and I feel many are just stuck in the denial stage. The thing is users dictate what will be by buying newspapers etc so if the papers lose touch with the upcoming generation then their sales will reflect it. If more people are advertising online or finding other medium more effective, then newspapers have to get with the program. No good being in denial, angry or anything else. How they do that is the question.

  9. It is clear that electronic information is the future as it speeds up the process from start to finish and the time and cost required by the consumer to access the information. Unfortunately the sad part is that very experienced people who have built careers in Journalism seem to be loosing their jobs… They hopefully will find a way to use their skills effectively in another Industry.

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