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A digital reality for Natives

A digital reality for Natives


For several decades the largest segment of the population has been the Baby Boomers, people born before 1960. At present, the Millennials, people born after 1984, are the largest population group. They are young and they came of age in a new century, with the internet and cell phones, the Age of Information, much of their day-to-day focus heavily influenced by social media.

On the heels of the Millennials are another generation, the Zoomers, people born after 2004. The first cohort of generation Zoomer was graduated from high school this spring. As these two younger generations age, the focus of society will not only ratchet to their interests and perspectives, but all our intimate knowledge and association with the 20th Century will gradually decline and ultimately disappear.

On the reservations, cell phone use will soon reach even the most remote areas, and people will turn to their phones for news and information. As a whole, this transition will be difficult for traditional media outlets to process, but especially so for Native media, as the average Native will be transitioning at a slower pace.

Native newspapers will have to adjust their business model, switch over to a digital reality, and this will cause some financial concerns, as they will struggle to get advertisers to jump to the internet with them. Readers must go to the websites in numbers that will convince advertisers that their dollars are being as well spent as they were when print media was king.

There is something comforting about holding a printed paper in hand, almost a ritual; the smell of the paper, the feel of it, people are loath to surrender a daily habit for something unfamiliar. But the benefits of going digital far outweigh the negatives. Operations no longer have to foot the print and circulation costs. Daily content can be added to the website, basically erasing the distinction between a weekly and a daily. Story length, size and number of pictures, percentage of advertising – none of things will be as critically limited as they once were. More than this, soon a generation of readers will emerge who never experienced the print media reality.

People who came of age in the last century, struggle with the idea print will soon be dead. On some level they feel concerned, even threatened by this change. It isn’t easy letting go of something that was so uniformly fundamental to the way we once processed information. As the last folks who called the 20th Century home fade from the scene, newspapers will probably print a monthly tabloid, summing up the news of the month and supplying big, colorful pictures. This can be sold to advertisers as a special section, something ideal for dropping on a tabletop for people to page through in a waiting room.

There are sensible and viable ways to make the transition to digital that will all seem self-evidently necessary with hindsight. But the time fast approaches when ink will be completely replaced by cell phones, and then the challenge will be to maintain a journalism standard that does not devolve into biased blog-based hyperbole in lieu of hard facts.


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