Monday, November 1, 2010

Tomorrow's News

Here's a forecast you won't read in any Irish newspaper: Irish newspapers will be extinct by 2027. Okay, like all such projections/extrapolations/conjectures it does need to be taken with a large pinch or two of salt. The forecast is from an interesting assessment of the extinction timeline for newspapers worldwide by Ross Dawson.

The detail is in the assumptions, of course, and Ross has sensibly included a combination of global/technological and national/demographic forces to derive his outlook for each country. As ever, it's hard to distinguish the short term from the long term - the recent decline in newspaper readership in Ireland appears to be as much a function of the recession as of any longer term trends.

That said, he wisely does not define 'extinction' as the complete cessation of newspaper production per se - but rather its evolution into something very different to the traditional definition of a newspaper. Dinosaurs becoming birds sort-of-thing. Personally I am more optimistic (at least for Ireland), in that I think by 2027 Irish newspapers and Irish newspaper readers will continue to drive a market similar to today's - though undoubtedly smaller (digital circulation will be bigger than paper circulation). People don't read newspapers for the news, rather they read them for entertainment and analysis (from sport to politics).

The amazing thing is not that there will still be newspapers in 2027, it's that there are any newspapers in 2010, saturated as we are in a rich mediascape of radio, television, web and mobile content. Mind you, with UK newspapers approaching the extinction horizon by 2019 it will be interesting to see how those UK-owned titles that have succeeded in Ireland will continue to cope with the increasingly divergent fortunes of the two markets...

1 comment:

  1. Spot on with the comment about people not reading newspapers for the news, Gerard. Instead, the rise of the columnist will continue, while the tradition of handing over money for your copy at a newstand is definitely going to go the way of the Dodo.

    Funny enough, Irish newspapers seem to have realised that the complacency they showed during the bubble, and the way they bought into it with the 'property porn' supplements, has left them vulnerable to a public backlash, and to their credit, they have been miles ahead of the official opposition in holding the government to account for its spectacular mismanagement and incompetence.

    I would be sorry to see the end of print editions of newspapers. There's nothing like holding the news in your hands "hot off the presses," and it was by means of underground papers that Nazism and Stalinism were often defied during the dark days of totalitarianism: something that easily manipulated electronic media would find hard to do. Nevertheless, they are in decline, and it is quality journalism that urgently needs saving now.


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