The Future of Newspaper Publishing: Emanuele Bevilacqua

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The Department of Modern Languages and Literature and the Department of Communications welcomed Emanuele Bevilacqua from the University of Italian Switzerland in Lugano to CMS/ITS 322 Italian Media and Popular Culture on March 13. Bevilacqua is a journalist and cultural manager who has launched many editorial enterprises including Pagina 99, Internazionale, and the Italian edition of National Geographic. He has also been the CEO at La Repubblica, Il Manifesto, and Azienda Palaexpo. He is currently chairman of the Teatro di Roma and a professor of Print and Digital Publishing at the University of Italian Switzerland.

Emanuele Bevilacqua

Emanuele Bevilacqua

To begin his lecture, Professor Bevilacqua shared the hypothesis of media analyst and writer Philipp Meyer, who predicted the death of the print newspaper in 2043. Newspapers will sell fewer and fewer copies and will collect less advertising, prompting publishers to move away from printed versions to digital ones. However, this scenario is unique to the Western world, since Africa and several Asian countries like India and China are actually experiencing growth in newspaper publishing. In recent years, the number of sales in these regions increased by 5.7%. 2. 5 billion people read newspapers every day, equal to 30% of the world’s population. Global newspaper revenues, which amount to 163 billion dollars, are still higher than those from music, film, and the book industry. Bevilacqua stated that newspapers are not dead, but “someone is trying to kill them.” The decline of newspapers began in the early 1990s. After the financial crisis of 2008, publishers cut costs, reducing the quality of the product and creating unemployment. However, even after the financial situation got better, publishing costs kept increasing. The industry continued to lose money and copies sold continued to decrease due to the rise of digital platforms.

Professor Bevilacqua noted that advertising is the key resource for the newspaper industry. Today the internet and web applications allow “extraordinary flexibility and richness of expression.” There is no quality information without innovation and investment in technology, no matter if the output is paper-based or digital. Professor Bevilacqua predicted that the newspaper industry will become a luxury industry whose main goal will be to attract a high-profile audience and advertising market. Increases in price will be necessary in the future in order to keep the industry alive. Lastly, he compared Italian and American newspaper markets, underlining how newspapers like the New York Times raised its price substantially to keep up with competitors, while many Italian newspapers left the costs unvaried or even became free and as a result lost a lot of money.