Printed newspapers may be going out of fashion but the national titles were at the forefront of setting the news agenda throughout the year. Yet they often relied on online disclosures by WikiLeaks. Three of the year's major stories – the Afghan and Iraq war logs, and the embassy cables – were the result of the leaked data put up on the net. This not only provided rich material, it enabled them to fill endless pages with comment about the ethics of publishing it. Newspapers do like to have their cake and eat it.
It was also noticeable that the election's transformative moment came courtesy of a TV debate in which Nick Clegg emerged as a political contender. However, it was newspapers' response that boosted Nick Clegg's public image. There is little doubt papers still carry considerable clout despite falling sales.
Indeed, with audiences building online, they arguably have more influence than ever before. That's the positive side. The negative is that print revenue fell further, leading to reductions in editorial budgets. The question asked continually was how to fund quality journalism. Some owners and editors showed a touching faith in apps' game-changing possibilities. Among them was Rupert Murdoch, who also boldly dared to go where no publisher had dared to go before by introducing charges for access to his papers' websites. Paywalls have since been the year's hottest topic within the industry.
By contrast, the Independent – having acquired a new owner, Alexander Lebedev – launched a cheap sister title, i. He also showed that another funding model, going free, could work with the London Evening Standard. But the overall picture for print has been anything but bright. Circulations continued to slip away, especially from the daily regional titles, and there were more closures of weeklies. But predictions of complete meltdown did not come to pass.
The Guardian Media Group resigned from regional publishing altogether, departing from its historic Manchester base to sell out to Trinity Mirror. There were further indications that the Daily Mail and General Trust is also eager to dispose of its regional division, Northcliffe., having held talks with Trinity. The other two major regional publishers, Johnston Press and Newsquest, faced increasing journalistic opposition to their costcutting strategies. Further consolidation can be expected. But all eyes will be on the Murdoch paywall results.