/ Technology

Has technology thrown newspapers on the fire?

Newspaper on fire

The Future Exploration Network has created a newspaper extinction timeline, which suggests US newspapers won’t last beyond 2017, with the UK following in 2019. The cause? Tablets and e-readers, of course.

The uptake of ebook readers and tablets has been startling. A survey by media law firm, Wiggin, has found that 12% of its respondents intend to buy an ebook reader within the next six months.

That’s great news for Amazon, which last week reported that ebook sales have now surpassed hardback and paperback sales combined in the US.

While they’re not exactly commonplace, it’s becoming less unusual to spot an e-reader on the morning commute. I remember taking a Kindle to the pub after work in 2009 and feeling very self-conscious about reading it in public.

But times have changed, and so have our news consuming habits. I now rarely watch the evening news on TV, as being largely desk-based at work and with the internet at my fingertips, the news has already filtered through to me.

The move to tablet reading

Our digital news consumption habits are changing too, with media groups seeing higher levels of engagement through tablet applications rather than on a website through a PC.

Not only are tablet readers leaving more comments and clicking on more ads, they’re also spending more time on the page. The Telegraph, Economist and Mail Online are all seeing average app use hitting around 30 minutes, which is far longer than readers stay on their websites. And keeping the reader’s eyes on the page means more ad revenue for publishers.

Furthermore, an app-based subscription service means customers buy every publication, not just when it crosses their mind. This isn’t just good news for publishers, we benefit too – the content is delivered hassle-free, can be kept up-to-date and is more interactive.

Too soon for newspaper extinction

Yet, while it’s easy to see why newspaper sales will dwindle significantly, I think 2019 is a little too soon for their extinction. There’s something tactile about perusing the Sunday papers that even an iPad can’t yet replicate.

And although I love the Economist app on my iPhone, I haven’t got on with newspapers on a Kindle. I have a couple of bug bears: black and white reading on an e-reader isn’t quite as appealing as the colourful pages of a newspaper; and the one-story-per-page restraints means you lose that ‘quick-flick’ experience, with stories less likely to catch my eye.

Ultimately though, I’d like to see newspapers go. While news on an e-reader doesn’t thrill me, it can look great on a tablet when done well. It will also mean less clutter on the Tube, and who wouldn’t want that?

Comments
Member

It’s not tablets and e-readers that will cause the death of national newspapers, its the FREE papers.

Ie Metro, Evening Standard etc.

And if you are talking about “soon”, this means that everyone will have to buy an ipad or e-reader, dream on! Face it, neither the e-reader or tablet satisfies what a paper gives you, colour pictures without looking at a screen. Also do you really want to carry something as expensive as an ipad around with you all day? me neither

Expect more super-injunction stories as the papers fight back for what is left of any subscribers.

Member

I have to agree that as long as advertising revenues continue to be strong, free newspapers will stick around. Though I do miss the free London Paper…

Member

But these free newspapers will be on tablet devices – of course.

Member

True enough. But what if I don’t want to buy a tablet?

Member

I have not bought a newspaper for years except to get a copy of an article of particular interest. I prefer to listen to the radio for general news and search for recent information on certain topics online.

I don’t spend long on sites that have intrusive advertising such as animated images or pop-up surveys.

Member
Lou says:
24 May 2011

Newspapers will never go out of fashion, get caught short and then try wiping your khyber pass with an e-book, or what ever they call them!!!

Member
Iain Duncan says:
24 May 2011

I don’t buy a newspaper on a regular basis.
I would take out a ipad subscription for a newspaper, on a per copy basis, but would
expect it to be cheaper than a printed version.

Member

The shift of news from print to TV did not kill the newspaper, so there is no reason to presume the shift of news from TV to ipad will kill the newspaper.

What did happen, and will happen, is further reduction in sales and consolidation of the news print industry.

We should be concerned, for the press is one of the four pillars of society, essential to democracy. Without good journalism, through whatever media, democracy will be less. However the decline in newspaper standards, as illustrated by the gutter press on premiership footballers, is an equal factor in the decline in press standards.

[Edited by mods to remove names]

Member

Newspapers can be read in anywhere and stuffed in a pocket, bag, down the back of the trousers (builder style) and they don’t get stolen by thugs or cause a panic if the tea spills on them, you sit on them or leave them on the train.

Now tell me a single electronic gismo that does that – plus they have layout designs and photos that grab the attention – its not the same with tablets – the layout is awful most of the time. No tablet has ever caught the attention the way a Times photo can.

PLUS – I can use old newspapers to clean my shoes, help with painting jobs, clean up after the dog, stuff in holes for deep filling, swat flies, swat noisy kids and wrap glass for storage.

I also have newspapers from my former career as a photojournalist (serious not paperazi filth) in the loft from the 1980’s and I can still read them.

How many tablets will do that in 30 years?
How many in 10 years?
NONE, the batteries are uneconomic to replace, the screens fail etc.

Member

I agree with much of what you say, Chris. But while in 30 years you may have to replace the tablet itself, you’ll still be able to reflect upon the content from the past three decades through your new model – as long as there are decent online archives.

And as for the rolling up of the newspaper, I’ve been seeing more and more flexible screens on show. They’re certainly not going to replace the rigid glass screens this week or next, but they are improving. I’m not convinceed they’ll be fly-swatting proof though.

Member

Free tip, folks – wrap up coriander or other fresh herbs with newspaper rather than a plastic bag, and they keep fresh in the fridge much much longer!

Find me an e-reader that can do that!

Member

Good tip. And fish’n’chips taste better from a newspaper – find me a tablet that can put up with that amount of grease!

Member

Eat too much grease and the only tablets you will need are statins!

Member

This morning when I arrived at the office my fingers were stained with newspaper ink from the Metro. You don’t get have that problem when reading news on a tablet.

Member

True, Ben, but how long before a study finds out how much bacteria, germs, and various unmentionables are found smeared all over the surface of an average tablet or ebook reader? Which? has done these studies on keyboards and smartphones in the recent past, and the results weren’t pleasant!

Member

Exactly, and you don’t have to constantly buff up a newspaper to remove finger prints either.