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Will newspaper circulation stabilize at a new, lower level or simply vanish? Suddenly the future seems grimmer. 5/14/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in eBooks, Gates, Newspapers.

Last Tuesday, Bill Gates claimed that “reading is going to go completely online” and predicted a dramatic tipping point within the next 5 years. He cited several reasons that online was superior to print: “It’s up-to-date, you can navigate, you can follow links. The ads…are completely targeted [and] can be in new and richer formats.” In fact, the only disadvantages he attributed to online were drawbacks in today’s reading devices that would soon be overcome – size, weight, battery duration, and cost. Then last Friday, a lover of books wrote in London’s Guardian that new electronic readers by Sony and iRex demonstrate that ebook devices that are as easy on the eye, quick to flip through, and portable as books are either already here or just around the corner. Unfortunately, newspapers are not even as good as books on those attributes. For decades, owning a newspaper has been a license to print money. But only 5 years from now, those who have not developed a substantial online cashflow may end-up with a lot of red ink on their hands, and printing nothing.


1. Larry - 5/15/07

I see Bloomberg Financial and Fox News formats continuing to provide quick glance news. I see internet based, coffee table imbedded screens for touch screen access for a leisurly (sp.) read on depth stories (yes, even my local Post-Dispatch will be around in that format I suspect).

Print journalism? nope…My West County Journal may be the model. Revenue from classified ads (you got to sell that used car!) along with community driven stories (Easter Egg Hunts and Eagle Scout ceremonies).

2. Chris B. - 5/15/07

It’s hard to argue that on-line is superior to print, etc. But one thing that I think gets underestimated is the time that these transitions require. Take a look at the companies that print newspaper coupon inserts (Valassis, et al). Why do these companies still exist, when there are much better ways for their clients to deliver value to consumers? It just takes a long time for these habits to die. These companies aren’t growing much anymore, but they’re still profitable, in some cases quite handsomely so.

Not only is the future not what it used to be, but it’s always very late to arrive.

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