Sometimes, the future is now.
That seems to be the consensus with some of the newspaper industry’s guiding lights, as the advent of e-newspapers appears to be approaching more quickly than expected. Some analysts predict that such flexible yet readable news reports could be ready for distribution as early as next year.
The concept as it stands now is that you the reader go to a newspaper’s website, download that day’s edition onto a reflective digital screen, and read to your heart’s content. That digital screen, of course, is a portable reader, with the added incentive being that the screen is easier on your poor light-deprived eyes than a PC, laptop, or other mobile display.
The main driving force here is money, of course. A digital newspaper has the potential to address two huge concerns of today’s newspaper bigwigs: production costs and dwindling readership. It costs a boatload of money to print a newspaper these days. Paper, even the recycled kind is expensive. A large number of newspaper pages have color on them, which is much more expensive to print than black text. Many newspapers print more than one edition, either a city edition and separate editions for outlying areas or one morning and one evening edition.
Most newspapers will also have a companion website, which contains much of the same material that gets printed on the paper version of the newspaper. That technology is continually updated and requires specially skilled workers and high-priced equipment. These are all costs that did not exist in a newspaper’s overall budget 20 years ago.
Because of the popularity of various Internet news sites these days, print newspapers have also been staggering from a huge loss in readership. Because news sites on the Web can be updated within minutes after a story breaks, they can be ultimately more immediate than a print newspaper, which comes out once a day (or, in some cases, once a week). Print newspapers counter with in-depth reporting and guaranteed-to-be-researched stories, something not often found on Internet news sites; but that is not nearly enough to stave off the relative dearth of readers as compared to even 10 years ago.
Advertisers as well are abandoning print newspapers in large numbers. The ease and appeal of building a multimedia ad that can be seen and appreciated on the Web has resulted in a wholesale defection of companies to the immediacy-guaranteed environment of the Internet. It’s not just image ads, either. Say what you want about the explosive popularity and geographical reach of sites like craigslist, they are totally stealing a market formerly cornered by newspapers. The same kind of immediacy that makes Internet news more appealing to today’s computer-comfortable generation extends to classified ads as well. Many classified ad sites are free, a price that print newspapers just can’t match.
What’s a print newspaper to do? Well, as someone famous once said, “If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em.” And that’s exactly what is happening. Companion websites was the first giant step for newspaper-kind. Offering digital readers is the next.
The idea is that you can fold up that reader and take it with you, just like you can now transport your print newspaper from your house to your job or your school or wherever else your legs carry you. You’ll want to take a little more care with that portable screen, though, because it probably won’t take well to being slobbered on by your dog. (A newspaper is just paper, after all, and any dog spittle dumped on it will eventually dry out, allowing you to read the news as you originally intended to.) On the other hand, a plastic screen can be wiped off and will dry instantly, something that paper can’t.
The reader will cost a few hundred dollars, of course. Companies now working on such technology include Sony, Xerox, Hewlett-Packard, and other media giants. These readers are poised to succeed where digital book readers have not because the book market, which has a relative dearth of electronic books compared to what the electronic news market can offer.
Yes, as early as next year, you can be reading the posts on this and all your other favorite news sites on something you can store in your laptop bag just like a newspaper. Stay tuned …