The decline of newspapers at the train stations

“We hope you enjoy your stinkin’ phones.” With this unprecedented headline, the costless newspaper “Express”, edited by The Washington Post, said goodbye due to the decline of readers who were mainly users of the subway and buses.

The fault of this decline was attributed, officially, to a decrease in demand and to the drastic fall in advertising revenues, but in reality the decisive cause was the installation of Wi-Fi in the mass transit cabins, which brought to the passengers a way to watch the news on their mobile, not on paper.

Express is another episode of the world in the closing chain of train station newspapers, after a decade of success since 2000, when its progressive appearance, which extended to more than 54 countries, involved a profound transformation of the paid diarism model.

The ease of reading the daily press in a smaller pet-type format, and for free, while taking trains and buses to get to or from work, severely hit the circulation and subscriptions of the paid newspapers, many of which felt forced to replicate this model to ensure their advertisers a large audience.

Once upon a time, the circulation of the free newspapers exceeded up to five times that of the paid newspapers, providing the same news, but in a minimal, simplified package and available to any user. Today, the investment in production and distribution of these free handouts would not be affordable neither profitable for a company if their users have discovered other ways and formats, such as podcasts, to reach to the news while they’re in the way to work.

Somehow it could be said that the spectacular phenomenon of the Metro-type newspapers went hand in hand with the tendency to free digital media, marking new strategies for the profitability of traditional journalistic companies that saw their table of audiences increase salvation.

Curiously, now that gratuity is not really widespread on digital media, and instead, payment subscriptions or cooperation modalities have augmented for those who want quality journalism without false or manipulated news, the iconic train station model loses ground rapidly in its original niches.

The fact that 82 percent of today’s worldwide Internet-user population owns a smartphone and that, on top of that, they’re able to access free Wi-Fi on the trains and buses, explains the fading of the now ancient prototype, whilst the trend is increasingly betting on a life full of digital behaviors in this era of modern communications.

– Translated from Spanish by Randy Rodriguez.