Will Covid-19 kill off newspapers for good?

One of the bigger commercial victims of the Covid-19 outbreak is the newspaper industry – when all this ends in the UK and other places there may not be one.

Newspapers have been converting to digital as fast as they can with some successes: the Times titles, the FT, Wall Street Journal and New York Times. In the mid-market Mail Online is finally proving itself after years of heavy investment. The ‘I’, formerly Independent, makes a bit of money as a digital product which it never did as a newspaper.

These and other digital versions will continue but, further down the scale, we could be seeing the end of the fabled tabloid press – which not everybody will mourn. Advertising has largely disappeared and, in many places, it’s impossible to buy a newspaper without queueing for half an hour at a supermarket. UK supermarket newspaper sales are estimated to be down around 70 per cent.

For all their steadily (now dramatically of course) fading fortunes newspapers still make the political agenda, at least for the current generation of politicians. They still quake when the Mail or the Sun gets on their case. The left-leaning Guardian plays a big role in the Labour Party (as it did in foisting Jeremy Corbyn on us by demanding a left wing leadership candidate when Ed Miliband stepped down.)

News Corp owner Rupert Murdoch will doubtless continue to print his papers for as long as he’s around but even Rupert isn’t immortal. It will be a strange old world without them.

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.