Is Digital Media Revolution Threatening Survival of Print Newspapers in KP?
PESHAWAR: Declining newspaper sales and the rise of digital media are posing a significant threat to the print industry in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Pakistan. Fareed Khan, a 75-year-old news hawker with a 35-year history of selling newspapers in Mardan district, expresses deep concerns about the future of his livelihood as newspaper sales have continued to decline in the region over the past decade.
Khan reminisces about the days when he used to sell hundreds of copies of popular newspapers. However, with the rise of television channels and mobile phones, the readership of print publications has significantly decreased.
Previously, Khan’s two sons and a brother were also involved in the newspaper selling business. However, due to dwindling sales, they have moved on to other ventures. Khan now finds himself selling only a few copies of Daily Mashriq, Daily Ajj, Ausaf, and Frontier Post newspapers, which is a stark contrast to the high demand in the past. He laments the changing times, noting that even students who used to rely on newspapers like The News on Sundays for their PMS and CSS exam preparation now turn to social media and mobile phones for instant access to information.
According to the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), there are currently 87 registered newspapers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with over 50 of them published in Peshawar, and the rest in Haripur, Abbottabad, Karak, and Mardan.
Asad Ali Khan, Joint Secretary of Khyber Union of Journalists, reveals that in the last five years, the number of popular Urdu daily copies has decreased from 300,000 to 50,000. The number of English dailies has also dropped from 5000 copies to 1000 copies across the province. Despite the provincial government’s provision of advertisements, Khan states that they are insufficient to sustain all newspapers.
Imtiaz Khan, a retired bureaucrat, reflects on how newspapers were once an integral part of people’s lives, adorning offices, living rooms, and cafes. He remembers a time when starting the day with a newspaper was essential to stay informed about the country and the world. However, he acknowledges that the advent of affordable smartphones, social media networks, and widespread internet connectivity has reshaped the media landscape, leading to a shift in news consumption habits towards online platforms.
The decline of the newspaper industry has had a profound impact on journalists, including reporters, subeditors, photographers, and even news hawkers, who often work part-time for meager wages. Many of these low-paid workers have been compelled to take on additional informal jobs to make ends meet. According to figures from the Peshawar Press Club, out of a total of 564 full and associate members, 250 journalists have lost their jobs due to the financial crisis and the decline of print media.
Government advertising has been another factor exacerbating the decline of newspapers. Media outlets critical of government and military policies have faced challenges in generating sufficient advertising revenue in recent years. This has further strained the financial sustainability of print publications.
Nadir Khan, a former reporter for the prominent English-language newspaper The Nation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who now runs his own business, acknowledges the diminishing interest in reading newspapers. He points out that the abundance of information available on mobile phones has made it less appealing to go through newspaper columns. While he believes that newspapers may not completely vanish in the near future, he recognizes the dominant role of electronic media, the diversion of advertising funds to TV channels, and the government’s preference for electronic media advertisements as significant challenges to the future of print media. However, Nadir Khan also emphasizes that established newspapers with credibility and trust are likely to survive, as they continue to provide in-depth and insightful analysis of issues even in the digital era.
A senior official from the Information Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, speaking anonymously, assures that the department’s advertisement policy is fair for all newspapers. He explains that several government and private organizations specify particular newspapers in their release orders for publishing advertisements. The official confirms that efforts are being made to distribute advertisements equally to support the survival of these newspapers in print form.
As the newspaper industry in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa grapples with declining sales and the rise of digital media, the future of print publications hangs in the balance. While the convenience and accessibility of online platforms have reshaped the way people consume news, the enduring value of established newspapers and the need for credible analysis continue to play a role in the evolving media landscape. It remains to be seen how the print industry will adapt to the changing dynamics and find innovative ways to attract readers in the digital era.
Source: Peshawar Today