Greenslade at the Guardian notes some off-hand remarks from Niklas Zennström:
“I don’t read as much paper as I used to and I think they will obviously be challenged. The thing that is a challenge is the daily press – you have free newspapers and quality newspapers and they each have to find their own markets, but I don’t think they’re dead…..There’s always going to be a need for in-depth journalism.”
I agree with him about the journalism but won’t that be delivered on the net rather than newsprint?
To which one can reply “Of course, and newspapers and magazines can work on the web — provided they (to echo Zennstrom) find their own markets.” The most interesting thing about Zennstrom’s comments is that he assumes that people of his generation are less into newspapers, less into reading paper, but that there will still be a real role for free newspapers and quality newspapers if they find the appropriate way of living in the web. I am sure that this is what he meant and am surprised that Greenslade does not take the obvious conclusion, that there is a future for digital newspapers. And of course for digital magazines. In the web.
Roy Greenslade is a credible commentator but he sometimes appears to be transfixed, like a rabbit in car headlights, by the evidence that circulation of London papers is falling off a cliff. He should take another look at Rupert Murdoch’s enlightened speech on the digital future. Murdoch’s enthusiasm is appropriate and necessary for the print industries. Of course print is challenged by the web. But print can use the web to find new ways of serving the market.
There is a slightly fuller account of Zennstrom’s comments at journalism.co.uk.
No-one knows for sure about the future of newspapers, so we’re all guessing to an extent. But it’s my belief, after years of arguing otherwise (until about two years ago), that few newspapers will survive the digital revolution. Those that do will have created a perfect model of integration and convergence. Magazines may do much better for a variety of reasons (they aren’t vehicles for fast-moving news, they serve niche audiences, advertisers require their kind of exposure to discreet audiences, their largely visual content remains, at present, easier to consume in magazine form), though they will need to have online presences too. I’m willing, however, to concede that I may be caught in the headlights. It’s a hazard all of us hurrying across the road – from print to net – must face, hoping that we get to the other side without being knocked down! I haven’t turned my back on print, or the readers. Print, and the readers, are turning their backs on me. Look closely at the age profiles of readerships – only those people aged 40 and above remain loyal to newsprint alone. I think freesheets may last longer than paid-fors, but I don’t think of them as newspapers. However much traditionalists want to dig in their heels, along with new media enthusiasts hedging their bets, the move to a screen-based future for journalism, real journalism, is inevitable.
I agree with Roy that the future of newspapers will be ‘screen-based’ to a considerable extent. But there is a tendency to assume that the future is either print OR screen, but it may in fact end up being both. If newspapers can figure out how to produce effective digital editions they will work fine in a web environment. Its worth considering what has happened to Scholarly and Technical periodicals over the last decade. Now all academic research (English, and Law as well as Maths and Computer science) is primarily based on digital periodicals. That is what academics and scientists now use. Ten years ago they were reading paper editions or photocopies. They still have the paper versions in the library, and the older ones may print everything out, but the primary reading is done from a screen. The challenge for newspaper publishers is to find a Subscription model which delivers enough value to core readers who will pay for that premium and an Advertising model which delivers their broadest audience and fickle readership to advertisers who are looking for online direct response.