I hate to admit it, but newspapers as they exist today have probably had their chips.
Maybe not tomorrow, or next month, or even next year – but it’s coming. Why?
Well as Ryan Sholin demonstrates, the newspaper buyers of the future don’t buy them. A weekly publication, maybe. A daily newspaper, when they can get the news that’s relevant to them online? Nope.
After all, how much of the content of the average regional newspaper (because that is what I’m talking about here… I’m not sure if this theory applies to the national and even less sure why I’d think that was the case) is of relevance or interest to all its readers?
I’d say maybe five or six page leads out of the 15 or so pages will be interesting enough to appeal to everyone. And the nibs are usually glorified events listings and done much better elsewhere.
So if you’re only reading five stories a day, it makes much more sense to look at them online, subscribe to a feed that will tell you when important breaking news happens, and rely on your social network to send you the interesting stuff.
So maybe what we have to do is
a) break the news online. Be first, be best, be the place people trust for the facts. If that means curating the best UGC in your patch then go for it.
b) provide some of that interesting stuff. Present it in an interesting way. Give people something they can’t get in print and then use the feedback to inform the in-depth analysis you’re writing for print
c) be where the people are, whether that’s Twitter or Blip.tv
c) be really good at the analysis, the backgrounds, the feature writing – so that people will buy your weekly round-up because they think it’s worth spending some of their spare time on
What does that mean for the newsroom? Fewer reporters, probably, more emphasis on quality of writing, both in print and online, and contacts.
We’ll all have to know about mapping and video and creating interactive content.
More page designers, less sub-editors.
You’ll notice I’m clinging to the idea that there will still be a printed publication of some kind. Why? Because I love books and newspapers and magazines. I love how stories can be presented in print. I think great page design can always be a show stopper. I think pictures still work better on paper. And I do agree that people will always read. Fingers crossed I’m right