19 September 2016

BUSINESS - Changing Media Landscape Concerns Canadian Government

The collapse of print media in Canada and across North America is a complex, controversial topic. What happens if the fourth estate falls? What industries, and what methods of information collection, control and dissemination, will take its place?

The fourth estate is a term that refers to the press as a critical force in government because of the fact that informed voters are the only way to ensure healthy democracy.

Some writers, such as the Globe and Mail’s Lawrence Martin, refer to the collapse as “a media implosion” that is taking journalism down with it.

David Yin at The Huffington Post sees the decline paralleling shifts in other industries such as public education. Journalism is now “perceived as ‘free’ and therefore inherently undervalued.”

On the other hand, websites like Newspaper Death Watch see hope for journalism to be renewed in the transition.

They “chronicle the decline of newspapers and the rebirth of journalism,” suggesting that the collapse of print media will ultimately be a good thing. Site founder Paul Gillin believes that “this painful decline will give birth to a new model of journalism built upon aggregation and reader-generated content.”

Gillin is not alone in his hopes for the “fifth estate,” in this case referring to alternative and blog-based, social media generated content, rather than the long-running CBC television news program.

Years ago, Laurie Penny and other digital content creators were talking about how bloggers are “out for a complete revolution in the way media and politics are done.”

Digital activists are creating and sharing information, building trusted, thriving (but rarely lucrative) brands for themselves.

So the fourth, or fifth, or even perhaps now the sixth estate will somehow survive because humans are hardwired to communicate.

In the meantime, where are the dollars?

Not in print advertising, that’s for sure. The Canadian government is slashing newspaper ad spending, and Canadian newspapers are staring at a 20% decline in ad and circulation revenue over the next four years.

Online advertising is growing, and first overtook Canadian TV ad spending in 2014. But, as the CBC learned through the Canadian Heritage Report for 2016, a significant portion of ad spending is going to non-Canadian sites like Facebook and Google.

In order to determine what these shifts will mean for Canadian media (in all its iterations), Ottawa has hired the Public Policy Forum to undertake a $270,000 study on “Changes in the newspaper industry,” and the results will be delivered at the end of this year.

In addition, the Canadian Government is hosting “Canadian Content in a Digital World Consultations,” an interactive digital space devoted to learning and sharing with Canadians about what they want to see in digital content.

The digital space also provides a wealth of information about the state of #DigiCanCon, and tools for engaging in real world community outreach.

Canada is not the only country dealing with the collapse of print media and the chaotic, unpredictable rise of digital media. Japan seems to be on the brink of a similar collapse, and America has lost almost 60% of newspaper jobs in the last 26 years.

By Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a writer, editor, academic, and animal lover who came late to her appreciation of pets. At 18, a rescue pup named Tasha saved her from a depression and she hasn't looked back. She has worked as the canine behaviour program coordinator for the Calgary Humane Society, and was a dog trainer specializing in working with fearful and reactive dogs for many years. She doesn't have any pets right now, but makes up for it by giving her petsitting clients (and any dogs she comes across on her frequent coffee shop adventures) extra snuggles.

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