Julie McLauchlan: In a digital age, our desire for news endures

Julie McLauchlan, managing director of Perceptive Communicators

Julie McLauchlan, managing director of Perceptive Communicators

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One of my earliest memories is sitting on my grandmother’s knee as she read her favourite tabloid newspaper, showing her disapproval for the image on page 3.

“Damp disgrace”, she tutted. This episode was followed years later with a paper round at the age of ten and more recently a 25-year career in PR, so newspapers are in my blood.

Even though I am well versed in the decline of hard copy newspaper circulations, the news of the Independent closing its printing presses to go entirely digital still comes as a bit of a shock.

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While the decision to halt the printing presses forever is bold, the move to digital tells us more about how we are consuming news than anything else. Does a solely digital platform illustrate the dwindling power of the media? Far from it.

We live in a digital age, where reading a newspaper over the breakfast table or on our commute is most likely to be replaced by scrolling for news on our smartphone. A recent survey shows that 86 per cent of Twitter users say they use this for news and 74 per cent do so daily.

After a slow start, traditional print and broadcast titles are responding to this. A renewed focus on online and digital content is catering for news-hungry consumers who want their news and want to access it how they choose, whether on their tablet, smartphone or laptop.

It’s possible that the change from print could see the Independent thrive, with digital allowing the title to vary its content, comment and impact. For example, there will now be European, Middle Eastern and Asian editorial hubs, helping to support the demand for worldwide content.

It’s easy to dismiss the media thanks to many hard copy circulations falling off a cliff. But news is news, whether consumed as you wake, sleepily scrolling a website, or skimming that dog-eared edition of the paper you found on the seat of the bus on your commute home.

Thanks to the online world, journalist investigations can be done thoroughly in hours or even minutes. And with social media, what you could once dismiss as the next day’s fish and chip paper can be shared with a global audience of millions before you’ve finished your journey home.

While there is no denying the decline in circulations, our desire for news and the impact of good journalism is as strong as ever. Their ability to expose, ask questions, stimulate debate and inspire will long continue whether on paper or online.

The Independent’s bold move may change the structure of the industry but it is unlikely to stem our appetite for news or our affinity with our favourite news source, damp disgrace or not.

• Julie McLauchlan is managing director of communications consultancy Perceptive Communicators

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