Media

Forget algorithms: Newspapers still command our undivided attention

By Oliver Smith 3 February 2017
Summary

Where do you get your news?

You might think Facebook, Twitter and mobile apps are the future of media, the places where we discover what is happening in our world – but that’s not where people are actually spending their time.

Newspapers, while very much last century’s technology and suffering some huge financial challenges, still command more of our undivided attention than their online counterparts.

The printed pages of a humble newspaper are read an average of 40 minutes per day per reader, compared to the 30 seconds that a visitor to that same newspaper’s website or app will spend.

Forget being glued to your smartphone, hundreds of thousands of Brits are glued to print.

A digital dud

What does this mean for the future of news?

Dr Neil Thurman, argues that the media industry’s obsession with online news is disguising what ordinary people really care about.

Print news still has a huge societal value and weight that online news can’t topple, says the Professor at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich who published the figures.

At the same time, online news is struggling on all fronts. ‘Fake news’ online is eroding people’s trust and algorithms are simply serving up what we want to see in artificial echo chambers.

Thurman argues that we need media outlets to fight back, bringing the respect and attention they command in the physical world, online – or else.

“Unless the qualities that make newsprint so much more engaging than online journalism can be harnessed to propel a reading resurgence, newspapers’ decline will continue, with important social, cultural, and political consequences,” says Thurman.

For now at least, newspapers still have a crucial role to play in the future of news.

2017-02-03 – UPDATE: Dr Neil Thurman’s primarily affiliation is LMU University of Munich, rather than City University of London as this article originally suggested.