Dead trees for the rich

Roy Greenslade notes the debate prompted by The Economist’s attempt to understand what is happening in the newspaper world, and refers to a piece on Today earlier this week:

Here is the response to The Economist by two editors: Alan Rusbridger of The Guardian and Simon Kelner of The Independent, talking on this morning’s Today programme. Rusbridger agreed that not all newspapers would survive because “there is a disaggregation of advertising from editorial… a fragmentation of audience… competition from free sheets.” He did, however, have faith that revenue could be earned online. Kelner does not accept that papers will die, but to survive they must innovate. As for income, he believes cover prices must increase to compensate for the falling take from advertising. (Via BBC Radio 4)

Rusbridger and Kelner on The Economist from Greenslade

Kelner’s Independent has always had an appalling attitude to the Web, and it’s not surprising that he continues to believe that papers can survive since that is the only world he knows. And I have said for many years that the dead tree editions will be reserved for the wealthy, willing to pay vast amounts to have a printed newspaper instead of one on digital paper.  I can’t claim credit for the insight, though – I got it from  Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, published in 1995 and read by me when I was right in the middle of my time at The Guardian’s New Media Lab.

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One Reply to “Dead trees for the rich”

  1. As a new media person, I think this is a silly stance.

    For two centuries the greatest economic minds have been predicting the end of the broadsheet. Always it has been economic arguments – and soon only the rich would be able to read it.

    It’s true that papers today are nothing like they were 50, 100, 200 years ago. They will continue to evolve and become something else. In the USA papers in circulation are at historic highs; but subscriptions per capita are plummeting. This doesn’t predict the end of anything, merely points out a healthy industry which is in flux as are all communications/entertainment industries. Maybe they *will* all move to digital editions when people give up paper offices, but the paper industry itself is larger than it ever has been in history and yet as a commodity paper cannot keep up with demand. So I don’t forsee people giving up their paper offices, or their paper news.

    On the other hand, the number of journalists per newspaper is shrinking. Maybe what the news papers are going to do is give up the news part, and just stay with the paper part.


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