How Readers Are Important for a Newspaper?



A newspaper is primarily dependent on its readers for its very existence. Circulation is fundamental. It is not upon advertising but upon circulation that the life and prosperity of a newspaper depends. If it has readers it is in a favourable position to get advertising; but it has to get readers first and to keep them.

In earlier years of Indian journalism, the circulation brought more revenue into most newspaper tills than advertising. However, in a period of business expansion, advertising has had an extensive growth. In the case of some news­papers it provides two-thirds of the income.

However, there are many newspapers, specially the smaller ones published from State capitals, instead of metropolitan cities, who receive large revenue from circulation as from advertisement; some receive more.

But quite apart from this matter of proportional income, it has always been and always must be a fundamental fact that newspaper publication is founded on readership and that the social, economic and political functions of a newspaper are performed primarily for the benefit of the readers.

This puts a great deal of power over a newspaper into the hands of its readers. They can make or break it. It cannot be said too often that the people as a whole can have very much a kind of newspaper they want.

Even in a city with a monopoly newspaper situation, editors and publishers are very sensitive to a situation when readers begin to turn to the radio or out-of-town papers for their news. They know they are never secure. Hence, they do not dare to let circulation slip. They know that the paper's prosperity depends upon readers' acceptance.

This power of their newspapers cannot exist in a dictatorship in which news as well us editorial policies are controlled by government. Nor is there need in such a state for the people to exercise any control over news policies, since they have no political powers which true information by newspapers would implement.

But in a democracy, the benefits which the people derive from their power over the newspapers are balanced, of course, by responsibilities. This is a privilege which readers enjoy of-being informed about events and situations at home and abroad.

No wonder, newspapers depend on their ability to gear up infor­mation system to satisfy their reader. Some of the newspapers carry out systematic surveys about their readership. They invite comments, suggestions and even criticism from their readers-firstly to satisfy the ego of the readers; secondly, to make their newspapers more responsive to the readers' opinion.

A large part of our newspaper reading is done in situations of relaxation. Father comes home from work tired. He washes up, has a good dinner with his family, feels better. In the living room, the children have turned on the radio, or perhaps the television set. Father settles into his easy chair, takes off his shoes, lights up his pipe, picks up his paper. Who can begrudge him enjoyment of his paper? He needs enjoyment, relaxation, escape from his day-long worries.

That is what comics, sports, and amusing features are for; that is why picture pages, comics, and sports pages (in that order) rank next to front pages in reader-taste surveys.

But good reading of newspapers does not stop with such diverting matters. A mind which is awake to the crucial problems on which the fate of the world depends today wants far more than the answers to such questions as 'What has the Shah Commission heard about the emergency excesses today?' or 'How Bishen Singh Bedi has fared in India's test match with Australia?' A lively minded reader looks over the latest dispatches from European and African capitals; he reads the correspondence from Washington; he must gather the views of the columnists and editorial writers In other words, a hardheaded reader will always spend a considerable amount of time on 'hard' news, leaving concentration on 'soft' news to soft heads.

The serious reader will also want enough of a given story to get his teeth into. If the Prime Minister or a retired General of the Army, or a Nobel Prize winner makes a major pronouncement, he will read, if not the whole of it, at least a sizable portion.

The news­paper serves all classes of readers and must always be a highly composite miscellany, with thousands of brevities; but a good reader wants significant events, situations and pronouncements set forth with fullness and detail, and he is willing to give time and effort to reading and studying such stories.

In these days when there is more leisure than ever before, there should be more time for serious reading. If our people will not read seriously, they will not deserve a mature press and radio.

Colleges can do something about it. College courses on current events which emphasise techniques of newspaper reading and radio- news listening (and now television viewing) are now part of the curricula of all good modern colleges.

In colleges and universities, specialised training of this kind, outside schools of journalism, is likely to be neglected on the theory that the student will keep abreast of the news anyway-perhaps in connection with courses in the social sciences. But neither the colleges nor the universities should dare to neglect this essential training.

Colleges may help, and the press and radio may do much toward the end of the proper reception and appreciation of the news-an important patriotic duty-but we must remember that, after all, the final verdict on good reading and therefore on a good news system rests with us, the people-the readers, hearers, and viewers themselves.