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.
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?