How can print media survive with the coming of new media?

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By Hanjabam Aruna Sharma

The coming of any new medium spells a fear of change in society. It always leads to discourse concerned with how the new medium attacks its predecessor. To begin with, a comparison is obvious. However when this comparison emphasizes the plus points of the new, especially over the shortcomings of the old, it becomes an jeopardy. This kind of analysis is not the only one that exists, but it is the one that gains the most popularity.

Secondly, one must give due importance to the medium itself. Quoting media theorist Mc Luhan, “The medium is the message.” Consider the coming of television. Mc Luhan refers to television as a cold medium – one that requires maximum audience participation to be effective. Television thus emerged to cater to different needs of the same audience. It brought the public the reality of the visual image to supplement their reading of the news. In a way, it brought more proof and possibly called for a different kind of objectivity. Nonetheless, it did not rob the newspaper of its consumers. Those who have been in the habit of reading papers, still do so. Possibly for them, reading, rather than just seeing is believing.

Using a similar understanding for the coming of the internet and the new media, one can argue that the latter caters to a different need of a section of the same audience. It provides information fast and in large volumes. However, what about that group of people who are not computer savvy? Nearly 70 per cent of our country’s population is illiterate. It is only a part of the remaining 30 per cent that reads papers. Furthermore, a smaller part within this section knows how to use a computer. This is in direct contrast to the situation in say, the US, where a larger percentage of the population is literate and also in tune with new media practices. Barack Obama’s successful political campaign is proof of this statement.

Therefore in India, the print media need not worry about becoming redundant or losing out to new media for the latter has to deal with the larger hurdle of illiteracy before it can boast of far-ranging success. However if print wants to move a few steps ahead, it must focus on providing what the new media provides. New media speaks of more audience participation. Print could try and encompass this aspect through more reports, opinions pieces and articles from readers, so that they feel more involved.

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