Who killed the Newspaper?

Newspaper is like a beauty queen past her prime. Make-up, exercise, and the proper lighting may produce an illusion of her old self. But beneath it she knows the reality.

The first printed newspaper was published in 1605. Newspapersince then it has been prospering even in the worst circumstances. It has over the years managed to face the competition from technology such as television, radio and the internet. But recently internet with its vastness, its vibrancy and its immediacy has posed a big question mark on the newspapers future.Newspapers have not yet started to shut down in large numbers, but it is only a matter of time. Over the next few decades half the rich world’s general papers may fold.

Philip Meyer, Knight Chair in Journalism at University of North Carolina, can notice the darkness at the end of the tunnel.

If present readership trends continue indefinitely, says the University of North Carolina professor, theLast daily newspaper reader will check out in 2044. October 2044, to be exact.” says Meyer, who has studied the newspaper industry for three decades.

He talks about the crisis the newspaper industry in going through in his latest book, “The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age,”

In the case of newspapers, there are three main expenses: giant printing presses; paper, ink and fuel; and labor.

The expense from the printing press is rather fixed. Printing thinner editions can save a little paper and ink. Even in the 21st century the printing process remains highly physical, mechanical, complicated, and noisy. “As we live through the second industrial revolution, our daily newspaper remains a tribute to the wonders of the first one”, says Michael Kinsley, American political journalist, commentator, and television host. The printed bundles are opened and then newspapers are put, one-by-one, into plastic bags. Then they are loaded into different vehicles like bicycles and trucks and then flung individually into people’s bushes or at their cats. Other bundles make their way to retail establishments and the rest go into metal boxes on the sidewalks.

Already going through dwindling circulation and a flat market most of the world’s largest and best-known newspapers are changing their appearance and feel.Dow Jones & Co., publisher of the Wall Street Journal, said that the Journal would shrink by cutting three inches off its width. Starting in January 2007, the front page of the Journal, which is now 15 inches wide, will be 12 inches wide – an entire column narrower. The depth of the page will stay the same, at 22 3/4 inches.” Also Barron’s, Dow Jones’s business weekly, will shrink by three inches from top to bottom. Even The New York Times recently said that it would be using a lighter weight of newsprint to try to reduce rising costs.

Just a change in structure would not do newspapers much help. They would also need to change their physical form. Caroline Bassett, senior lecturer at would be in the form of data that can be transferred to different electronic the department of media and film at Sussex University, sees the future paper screens. Papers would then be viewed on portable devices like laptops and phones. “At the other end of the market there could be newspapers delivered to public screens in stations”, Ms Bassett imagines.

There is throwaway scene in “Minority Report,” a movie, based on a Philip K. Dick short story, that ever journalist would have noticed. The Tom Cruise sci-fi flick shows a metro passenger reading a USA Today. It is like a full page newspaper (called a “broadsheet”). But instead of paper sheets it is a very thin video screen with continuously altering text, video and sound. . Director Steven Spielberg thought the future newspaper to be a blend of television, internet and the current newspaper.

However, media commentator, Vince Graff thinks that the newspaper will survive even in the next 50 years. But it would be like a “niche product” like the vinyl records are now. Its appearance will change but its format will remain the same as the broadsheet shape had already started looking old fashioned. “The thing is paper is terribly convenient: how many newspaper-buyers read them on the loo?” he says. They are definitely portable and can be easily tucked in a bag and scribbled upon. The newspaper “as we know it today” will survive because it is preferred by many readers who still find it easier to scan and more pleasant to hold. “Just as radio has survived television and theatre has defied film, the traditional newspaper – and in a form we would recognize – could endure.” says Vince.

On the contrary Bill Gates says, “In technology things that are supposed to happen in less than five years usually take longer than expected, while things that are supposed to happen in more than 10 years usually come sooner than expected.” Ten years ago, the newspaper industry was in alarm over, a Microsoft project to make Web site entertainment guides for some big cities, called “Sidewalk. The industry was convinced that this would through then out of the market. But this didn’t happen. Gradually the industry became complacent and stopped thinking of internet as a danger. The trouble even an established customer will take to obtain a newspaper continues to shrink, as well. “Once, I would drive across town if necessary. Today, I open the front door and if the paper isn’t within about 10 feet I retreat to my computer and read it online. Only six months ago, that figure was 20 feet. Extrapolating, they will have to bring it to me in bed by the end of the year and read it to me out loud by the second quarter of 2007”, says Gates.

All in all the newspaper industry in a big crisis and need to take drastic steps to keep up with the advancing technology. No one knows what the future holds.

As Alan Kay put it , “ The best way to predict the future is to invent it!” now It is just for us to wait and see what all modifications does this pile of paper resort to keep up with the changing times!

 

1 http://www.ajr.org/Article.asp?id=3885
2 http://www.slate.com/id/2133847/
3 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/11/AR2005101101551.html  
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4244908.stm
5 The movie “Minority Report” 
6 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4244908.stm
7 http://www.slate.com/id/2133847/

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