Being someone who has embraced digital content I fail to understand the love affair people have with paper. I’m not just talking about news papers, I mean books, print outs anything that involves physical copy. I just don’t get it. Take books for example, they’re heavy, awkward to hold and are prone to damage.
Why put yourself through that experience?
Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in a long time: I purchased The Sunday Times. I don’t normally read newspapers, especially Sunday papers which for some reason are huge unwieldy things. None the less, of to the shop I trundled and struggled back with the times. After some time sorting through the various sections, I actually started to read. At this point I should state that I enjoy reading and have always been an avid reader, from fiction to non-fiction, to news and sport I read them all!
Which leads me on to the story which appeared in yesterdays Sunday Times: The plastic fantastic future of newspapers. In his article, Alex Pell discusses the future of newspapers.
What intrigued me was not the e-reader or the new digital ink being discussed, but that publishers and presumably writers / journalists still do not understand digital content, the internet and where their future lies.
The article tells us how companies are competing with each other to develop a mobile newspaper of the future. This will be kindle like, will always display the latest edition of your newspaper and will have a colour screen and great battery life. BUT, it wont be available for a couple of years. Let me ask you this, if you have a computer at work with access to the internet, if you a have a mobile phone with access to the internet, if you have a computer at home, then what need will you have for (what promises to be an expensive) device that will display your favourite newspaper?
Take the iphone, it is already the biggest ebook reader beating the kindle and Sony’s ereader. It is not hard to realise why, give consumers a decent screen, the ability to load their own content and a device that they will always have with them and you have a success story.
So what are publishers failing to understand? Consumers will always demand “content” whether that be the latest news or the latest thriller from a leading novelist, but as can be seen, consumers continue to read the classics. A quick trip over to Project Gutenberg proves this. (What is Project Gutenberg? An ebook site that allows users to download out of copyright books in a digital format.)
Therefore whether it be new content or existing content, consumers want it. Surely this is a market that is just waiting to be exploited.
Is there money to be made? Yes is the simple answer. Just as the music business has found out and now the movie business, consumers will purchase digital content. The newspaper industry has for a long time failed to embrace the internet. In the early days, their websites were not uptodate, with them preferring to maintain the newspaper position of breaking news. Thankfully today, the internet is full of newspapers delivering their content online, but some sites require users to register, or do not provide rss feeds which make it unneccessarily difficult for users to get the content they demand.
What cannot be allowed to happen is a situation where a leading newspaper tries to get its audience to pay for online content. That business model is dead. There are plenty of reputable news sites that exist already that are free, therefore a digital newspaper will have to rely on advertising revenue.
The quicker publishers get their content digitised and availble to the consumer the faster they will cash in, whether it be in advertising revenue or by selling ebooks. As more and more devices come to market that are “connected” the market for digital content will explode and therefore the future in publishing is in digital.
Time will tell which newspapers will successfully migrate their entire business onto the net, but failure to do so will ultimately ensure their demise.