Word Count: 556.
With the coming of the new technological age emerged a major shift in the communications industry. The advancement in technology, business theories, economic models and human thought all opened up a multitude of pathways for media mediums to flourish. After the American War of Independence the role of the press in society, particularly newspapers, experienced a massive change. At the close of the war in 1783 there was an estimated number of 43 newspapers operating. The importance of print papers during this time is reflected in the First Amendment of the U.S Constitution that guaranteed freedom of speech and the press (pg. 319). The invention of steam engines in the 1830’s allowed print media to be produced more rapidly and in higher quantities at a relatively inexpensive cost. The increase in access caused an increase in literacy throughout the nation, which in turn spurred a rise in demand for the product. As papermaking technology became more efficient newspaper chains emerged in order to cater to a growing desire for the public to receive immediate and in depth coverage of events. These chains had enormous influence over the public and were able to collectively produce complex stories to a massive number of people.
Following the initial boom of the newspaper industry they began to experience some setbacks. Starting in the 1990’s print news saw a decline in readership that can be attributed to the overwhelming growth of technology. Information that was once valued for its permanence and credibility quickly became valued for its convenience and utility. Many chains lost classified advertising during this time to online e-commerce sites such as Ebay.com and Craigslist.com (pg. 263) which was economically detrimental. Technological convergence allowed for quick and easy access to information and a decreasing need for attention span. With less people purchasing newspapers, companies began utilizing multimedia resources by covering certain topics online. Although this was able to cut production costs and maintain followers, the online business model was slow to adapt. Significant generational differences and increasing competition caused immense pressure for newspapers that some argue they may still not recover from.
To provide adequate coverage of events and to keep up with technological convergence many newspapers have developed high-tech and extensive online branches. The Baltimore Sun for example uses multimedia and reader participation as part of it’s strategy to converge. Some features of the website are access to videos, pictures, text, search abilities, and links to other sites. These all give readers the ability to access information in different ways that most convenience them. For example instead of purchasing a printed newspaper and reading a lengthy article, one can now watch a “recap” video online within seconds. Instead of flipping through a hard-copy, people can search for the exact story they want to access and view it immediately. Convergence has also made users have a more predominant role in the media. Instead of idly receiving messages we now want to interact and broadcast our own ideas. The Baltimore Sun provides readers with the ability to participate in the news. Commenting features, “ask the editor”, polling, subscription access, and the ability to submit op-eds are all examples of how the paper incorporates the public. By using media technology in this way papers are remaining viable. As the communications industry is changing so is human thought and how we process information.