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The Pathway to Digital Readership

07/16/2018 - 11h37

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PAULA CESARINO COSTA

The last daily newspaper reader will disappear in September 2043. This prediction was made ten years ago by American researcher Philip Meyer, the author of the book "Could Newspapers Disappear?" So, that means we are 25 years away from the demise of newspapers.

Dozens of critics have rebuffed the projection, reasoning that newspapers could change their platforms, profiles, or perhaps their periodicity, but that they will continue as something essential to a considerable portion of readers. In general, I side with those who are hopeful that newspapers won't perish.

In an alarming study, American economists traced the shrinking dimensions of the local press in 204 American cities. In a 20-year period, 296 newspapers were shuttered.

The researchers concluded that the lack of investigative journalism at the municipal level increases the difficulty for investors in evaluating the quality of projects and the commitment of authorities to providing public services

This worldwide debate finds an echo here in Brazil because the situation for media groups here is at risk. There is no comprehensive data available regarding the closing of newspapers, but the News Atlas maps out newspapers and news sites in only 1,125 cities, merely one fifth of Brazilian municipalities, which leaves 70 million people without any connection to local news.

In written and digital media, these areas are referred to as news deserts and they encompass 35% of the Brazilian population.

The good news for the press is that there has been an increasing transfer of readership from paper to digital media, which increasingly serves as the base that sustains the press. The British newspapers The Times and Sunday Times announced in June that for the first time their number of digital subscribers (500 thousand) had surpassed that of print subscribers. This represented a 20% increase in digital subscribers compared to the same month in 2017. In May the Times had an average daily circulation of 431 thousand copies.

The Yew York Times had previously announced an increase of 25% in digital subscribers in the first quarter of 2018 and today the total number exceeds 2.7 million. The Washington Post has surpassed the 1 million mark in exclusively digital subscribers and the Wall Street Journal (more than 1.2 million) has as well.

These are vehicles that are beginning to reap the result of their investments and boldness. Numbers for the Brazilian market are more modest but indicate that the digital path is one of no return. Folha, the leading newspaper, already has more digital than print subscribers. Out of a total number of 303,880 subscribers in May 191,544 were exclusively digital.

Such numbers and various surveys raise the hopes of those who believe in accurate, technical, precise and independent information as a beacon for citizenship. The digital pathway appears to be clear, but there is still a lot to do in terms of innovation to maximize the journalistic potential of the medium.

THE RUSSIAN WORLD CUP WILL BE FORGOTTEN, AND NOT ONLY DUE TO THE BRAZILIAN NATIONAL TEAM

The Russian World Cup wasn't like previous ones. Not only on the playing fields, but also on the pages of Folha.

The leading stars bid an early adieu and the favorite teams played dully and were eliminated.

From a journalistic perspective, Folha played from the bench. It didn't present any editorial innovations nor excel with graphical boldness. Timidity was evident from the front page on. It maintained an average quality of coverage, but practically nothing will stand out in the memory of reader-fans.

The editors of the World Cup 2018 section, Eduardo Scolese and Paulo Passos, say that the coverage was innovative in highlighting reporting based on data, with the support of professionals exclusively dedicated to this effort. "The newspaper also provided reports and analysis regarding hot themes like Argentina's agony and the unprecedented use of VAR (video assisted referee). It managed scoops like the premium paid to players for a cup title, how much coach Tite makes with commercial endorsements and the situation surrounding player Paulinho's father."

For them, coverage wasn't limited to the soccer ball, "in addition to a wide range of columnists diversified by sex, nationality and viewpoint, who brought reporting and analysis about politics, behavior, culture and the Russian economy", which is typical of World Cups.

Daigo Oliva, who was responsible for photo editing for the section, said that text information and graphical effort were given the same weight and that images were chosen that extrapolated the visual games of obvious soccer play recording.

The extensive use of more sophisticated data was a visible mark of the coverage, but not always with a good visual presentation and rarely with interactivity in the online version.

Folks were missing. Fans, both anonymous and famous, in Brazil and in Russia, were forgotten. Authorities and personalities went unnoticed in the land of the Cossacks. Until 2022.

Translated by LLOYD HARDER

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