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Fate of the print publications?

The market situation in the country, costly print edition, maintaining nationwide reach, and professionals required to keep the paper running were listed as other reasons for its foray into online, research and consultancy works.

Sadly, albeit true, media industry especially print publications appear to be presently perturbed whether it would withstand the test of time.

Things are definitely not going well for print media, not just in the country but globally as well. The perfect examples were the two events that transpired last week – the takeover of ‘The Washington Post’ by the founder and chief executive of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, in the United States, and Bhutan Observer (the country’s second oldest private newspaper) suspending their print edition after being in the market for about seven years.

And while top echelons of the Washington Post Company cited the newspaper-industry challenges as reason for the inevitable sale, the reason for Bhutan Observer was no different too. The challenge sustaining as a socially responsible independent media, the paper claimed, coerced them to suspend print edition and go online.

The market situation in the country, costly print edition, maintaining nationwide reach, and professionals required to keep the paper running were listed as other reasons for its foray into online, research and consultancy works.

And unquestionably, all of the above challenges and problems are ubiquitous in all the private media houses presently. It’s not something off-the-wall to other papers in the country. The situation is only getting worse each day. Most hoped that the scenario might change with the 2013 elections, but post-elections it has been back to the same old ordeal. Advertisement continues to be a rarity. Laying off employees and cost cutting have only intensified in all areas of the media houses. It is as if many are waiting; in anticipation that a miracle of sorts might appear from somewhere to salvage them.

Further, sustenance ahead doesn’t appear to be an easy task too. All media houses sustain on government advertisement as it constitutes about 80% of the country’s total advertisement. And what some print media houses need to be cautious about is the fact that government doesn’t see the advertisement scenario changing for any better in the next five years.

The sustenance task, therefore, is only expected to become more daunting with the advancement in digital media. Although we can repose in the fact that there is much time when we reach such a stage when there would be no printed newspapers, such possibility, however, cannot be ruled out. If we go by the present signs, we may not even be far-off from such a predicament.

The two events, therefore, are also a reminder to all the other publications of a highly unlikely situation waiting to unfold. Journalism experts purport that media houses have to be a viable venture, along with the adherence to principles and ethics of journalism. And we haven’t lost it all. By-all-odds, there is room for such establishments with such purposes, at least for now. 

Lobzang Dorji

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