25 December 2010

The future of newspapers

There's a very thoughtful article by John Lanchester in the London Review of Books on the future of newspapers.  Basically, his point is that newspapers are going to get rid of their print editions - the big costs of printing and distribution simply are not being met by the current level of ad income and especially since classified ads moved to the Web.  I recall, in the late 90s being at a conference organized by a management consultant friend of mine.  Present was the owner of a local newspaper chain from the mid-West of the USA.  I asked him what he was doing about the threat of the Internet - he replied that he didn't see the main source of his income, classified ads, disappearing.  I wonder what he is doing now and what he might have been doing had he listened to what I was saying?  So, I agree with Lanchester - newspapers would find it cheaper to go totally digital and give away e-readers to those who subscribed.  Lanchester suggests some form of micro-payment and argues that people will be willing to pay to read selected material. Possibly. I think, however, they are going to have to be smarter at negotiating deals with all kinds of advertisers and Web services in addition to making it easy to pay for content you enjoy.

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