I don’t know if Scott Adams frequents The Daily Cartoonist and saw our discussion last week on newspaper trends, but he’s waded into the discussion by posting his prediction on the future of newspapers. In short it will happen within your next 2 mobile phone upgrades.
I predict that the end of printed newspapers will happen in the time it takes for most people to upgrade their cell phones two more times. The iPhone, and its inevitable copycats, (let’s call them iClones) are newspaper killers. When you have a web browser in your pocket, a printed newspaper is redundant. Eventually, all cell phones will have Internet browsing built in. You might not have a web browser on your next cell phone, but the one after that will have it as a standard feature.
Most people prefer to read a printed page versus a computer screen. A cell phone screen is the worst of all. But newspapers will collapse as a business long before 100% of iPhone and iClone owners give up their printed newspaper subscriptions. I don’t know if it will take 20% of iPhone/iClone owners to cancel their subscriptions, or if it will take 60%, but whatever the number, it seems likely we will reach it. Then the printed newspaper will disappear.
So I see printed newspapers lasting until you upgrade your phone two more times. But the newspaper business can thrive online if it changes how it gathers and edits content. And clearly there will be massive amounts of consolidation. There won’t be 3,000 newspapers online. There might be a dozen. And local news will come from hometown bloggers who self-syndicate to all of the newspapers.
Here’s what I agree with: I think mobile phones will have an impact on the newspaper business. It is estimated by 2010, 4 BILLION people will have web enabled mobile phones (keep in mind that the world population is estimated to grow to 6.8 billion in that time). I see the mobile phone becoming the next evolution of the internet – more personal, smaller screen specific offerings. His last point makes sense to me as well. I think you’re going to see greater consolidation of media entities. In the Salt Lake City market, when it comes to news, I can get the same news (who, what, where, why, when and how) from web sites of the 2 metro papers, several radio stations, the 4 television stations and a handful of bloggers. A lot of the content is the same with little to differentiate between them. Like the print consolidations of the past century that gave us hyphenated names for papers (Journal-Constitution, Times-Picayune, etc.), we’ll see large media companies partnering or merging their products (probably at first their web offerings) in order to reduce redundant costs and increase their audience.
Here’s where I disagree: Because of the screen size limitations, I think it’s a bit aggressive to kill off newspapers in 4 years (two 2-year mobile phone contract periods). Especially when you look at the aging population that still subscribes to the newspaper, they’re not the population that is likely to get all geeked out over a mobile phone and as they get older and have to deal with vision challenges, the last thing they’re going to do is read a paper on the mobile phone.