How long will newspapers live?

There are things I loved to do when I was back home in India – read the Sunday paper at leisure – before Mom gave me late breakfast. And before Dad woke up and came downstairs. Well, I never read all the political mumbo jumbo, but did read the full page Sunday comics. And the picture puzzles and the jumbles. And when I was youg(er) at heart, I used to read the horoscopes too, hoping that something great will turn out of the tremendously traumatic one way crush I had on this girl. But this was way way back – before I went to college. Ok, not way way back, just way back.  I am not that old.

Enough with the prologue.

Today, I (along with millions of others) read the news online. I pick and click what I want to read. Computers and ever-increasing internet speeds are making everything – EVERYTHING appear online. Is this the end of the newspaper regime? It was thought once upon a time that 24×7 news channels on television are going to make newspapers go obsolete eventually. But in reality, it never even caused as much as a dent. But let us look at the current scenario. Everything on the internetis customized based on the individual – be it news content or even advertising. People look for news and relevant things based on keywords they use. Information is presented to the individual – he/she no longer has to look for it! With an increasingly increasing number of people depending on the internet for their daily dose of knowhow/what/why, isn’t it only a matter of time when newspapers will go obsolete?

I will argue with myself here, and point out that there is a certain pleasure associated with reading a newspaper with breakfast, compared to reading something on an electronic screen. It’s the same argument you can use for whether you want read a book from Kindle‘s electronic screen or by holding it in your hands with bookmarks and all? But that is ME talking. The current generation that is growing up is already accustomed to everything being present online itself. Will they ever experience what we do? May be till our generation (people born in the 80s and before) dies and fizzes out, newspapers are going to exist. Will newspapers end up in the museum after that? Just how long will newspapers live?

On a somewhat related note, here’s one of my favorite videos called “Did you know” (thanks to Kaushal for showing this to me!). It’s Karl Fisch’s famous presentation on the blinding speed of technological progress. This is version #3 of the project – “Shift happens“.  Here’s his blog. Thought inspiring. Turn up your speakers, for the video is great with the background score!


Shift happens

Parts of this post are inspired by a very rich conversation I had had with a distinguished Indian gentleman a few weeks back. We were generally talking about how fast electronics are taking over every activity in our lives. The topic moved to the pointless ‘breaking news’ offered by 24×7 news channels, and then moved to how newspapers might actually go obsolete. Now this gentleman is in his 60s, and I am in my 20s – and I want to believe that newspapers will survive and continue surviving. He, on the other hand, differs in opinion here. Also, he has seen a LOT more life than me, or even the average man his age. I do intend to do a piece on his truly inspiring accomplishments later sometime by interviewing him myself. Till then, he remains anonymous.

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Filed under Foreseeable future

Comments

6 Responses to “How long will newspapers live?”
  1. Reva says:

    Sadly the newspaper industry is in doldrums. Me too loves the feel of newspaper the black stains left behind after reading it and The Hindu “Young world”. And I still read horoscopes!!! 😀 But yes the biggest advantage is that news breaks faster online. The reach is higher and faster! That is one advantage e-read has over paper read! 🙂

  2. RukmaniRam says:

    er. had to point this out.. but your lament has a touch of romanticism associated with it. when you take that out, it’s only logical that newspapers die out. well maybe not “die out” but hang on as the AM radio did when cable tv came to all.

  3. Roshmi says:

    You know, two things that will never go out of fashion or rather never become ‘extinct’ are: food and newspapers… Can’t say the same about trees though… sadly!

    Ditto books. I experience this first hand… every time while attending the ‘Kolkata Book Fair’… generations of grandparents and parents introducing their wards to the magical world of ‘books’… There are several bookshops setting up business too… all very reassuring, what?? No matter how many e-books one reads (slouching or sitting ram-rod straight)… one cannot curl up on the sofa with it… being able to do so is addictive!

    And newspapers! Folks may surf channels or watch news on the net… but they would still want to have that good old newspaper while having their breakfast, perhaps another while travelling to work… quickly glance through a couple more during tea/coffee breaks @ work… and so on… no wonder we have several newspapers being launched at regular intervals… including those belonging to the vernacular press… and doing well too!!!

  4. rads says:

    Awesome video..loved the background score…but my answer to your questions: only time will answer that..as of now, I read the Chicago Red Eye same way as I used to read TOI in India. Although I do agree that I browse through Yahoo News everyday and my hubby reads Eenadu (a telugu newspaper) online coz we can’t get that in paper here. But he hates reading it online. Newspaper industry doesn’t have to worry coz if not in paper they can sell the same in electronic format like pdf, just like e-books. Maybe that will happen one day and we will get to see more trees on Earth.

  5. Nikhil says:

    Ahh..! Reading news papers will always retain its undisputable charm, be it early morning on a sofa with coffee or while travelling in a 2nd class AC train compartment. And I do wish the printing machine is kept oiled for long enough…
    But, a unfortunate outcome of online news is the singular dependence by many newspaper companies on revenue generated through online targeted advertisement to run the company. For obvious reasons, the cost of 1cm2 area on your screen is many times more than 5cm2 on the newspaper…
    And given the economic conditions we are in, it is sad but not surprising to read stories like : http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/16/business/media/16paper.html
    – Newspaper companies on the verge of filing bankruptcy due to poor revenue generation from online adverts.
    In this context, “How long will newspapers live?” – well my guess is as good (bad) as yours 🙁

  6. Kokonad says:

    @Reva
    Yes Reva, I completely concur. The newspapers are really up against the aspect of breaking news as they occur – which it can never really beat! Aside, aaah, the days of Young World! 🙂 *sigh*

    @RukmaniRam
    I see what you are saying, RukmaniRam, and I will raise another point here. When we are comparing the radio with television, we are looking at two completely different forms of entertainment (audio vs audio/visual). When we are comparing print to electronic screen, are we making a similar comparison? In many ways, yes. But in many ways, no, too! But it surely is an interesting take. And about the romanticism, of course it’s there! 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

    @Roshmi
    Hi Roshmi, I really really hope it stays that way! You are absolutely right! I definitely do not want to curl up with a computer monitor on my sofa… that would be weird on so many levels. 😛 Several newspaper companies here in the US are close to shutting down because people are able to access the NY times online for free! But it’s the small newspaper companies that trickle out with bankruptcy. That’s what concerns me.

    @rads
    I am glad you liked the video, Radhika. It scares, amuses and amazes me all at the same time! The soundtrack is “Right here right now” by Fatboy Slim. The original music video is pretty funky too. I have the same problem as your husband – I don’t like reading news online, but I have no choice, especially to catch on with India. As Nikhil points out, the newspapers don’t really lose out much because advertising on the Internet is really expensive – and they earn a lot of revenue from there itself. Meanwhile, you are absolutely right – less newspapers, more trees. Unless the amazing human race finds some other use for all that wood!

    @Nikhil
    Thanks for the link, Nikhil… and thanks for that image of traveling in 2nd class AC compartment. Now I want to go back to India by train. 😛 I referred to your point in a previous comment – about the revenues generated through online advertising and bankruptcy of small companies. My guess is that newspaper giants will continue printing, although in smaller numbers. Employees from smaller firms will need to find more jobs.

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