I don’t buy terribly many books anymore, or magazines, and certainly not newspapers. A bit of an ironic statement from someone who’s first book comes out in January, but I don’t equate publishing with paper. I assume that my books will have more life in digital editions than in paper ones. I’ve been writing in the digital medium far more than I ever have (or will) in works published on paper.
While it isn’t Earth-shattering news that newspapers, at least in print, are dying off. Local newspapers, the hyper local kind that I used to deliver every afternoon as a kid when I was a paperboy (another causality of the Internet age), seem long gone. If the survive at all it’s as a thin weekly paper. In Vancouver The Georgia Straight and Vancouver Observer have thriving Internet-based content. Often some of the best content in both papers are online only. I found this piece in The Economist comparing how the telegraph didn’t kill newspapers, but actually made them what they are today:
The trouble is that nobody knows how to make money in the new environment. That raises questions about how much news will be gathered. But there is no sign of falling demand for news, and technology has cut the cost of collecting and distributing it, so the supply is likely to increase. The internet is shaking up the news business, as the telegraph did; in the same way, mankind will be better informed about his fellow humans than before. If paper editions die, then Bennett’s prediction that communications technology would be the death of newspapers will be belatedly proved right. But that is not the same as the death of news.
What has caused the biggest problem for newspapers, until now, is that there was no easy business model for continuing print editions. I see eReaders as the solution to the problem. No, I don’t think that many papers can have subscription models like The Wall Street Journal or New York Times have, but if more content can be delivered more easily and more cost effectively online without the noose of a paper edition around their necks, not as much money needs to be raised through advertising.
Classifieds? No, Craig’s List killed those as a revenue stream. And people do appreciate great content, and might be willing to pay for it. But in the end, it will be the ability to pull up the news on our small, slim tablets that will save news, writing, and journalism. We can gather, analyze, connect, and publish information so much more efficiently leveraging technology. The question will be which newspapers will find it more profitable to ditch their print editions entirely first. And what is the magic number of eReaders in consumer hands to make a digital only edition the best solution?
And maybe the biggest irony of all it is RSS will be the technology that will likely be the way we create and manage our newspapers on our digi-slates.
Who said the RSS reader was dead?