By 2040, according to the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization chief, the traditional newspaper will be extinct and all the news we read will be provided digitally. So is this form of media ready for the bin?
The Paperless Society
In October 2011 the Norwegian parliament bought 167 iPads – enough for each and every MP – in order to get closer to its goal of a paperless parliament. This clearly illustrates a global drive towards digital and cutting paper consumption – and Nordic regions are known for setting trends that others later follow. More telling still, in December 2011 global giant Unilever announced a huge shake-up of its £5.1bn advertising spend, citing its desire to continue leading in digital marketing and reduce the environmental impact of its advertising. Its digital ad spend has risen by 15% in the past year alone.
Investing in Digital
Some newspapers are repositioning themselves for Generation Digital and the Cloud Era. Early adopters have made investments that may pay dividends. However, converting early inroads into a mature winning formula requires a willingness to invest not just in the new digital platforms and cloud services, but also in dialogue driven open customer relationships. Advertisers are already seeing the limitations of print – having been underserved and overcharged for years – indeed, between 2006-10, print advertising revenue plummeted from $47 billion to $24 billion.
Disruptive Business Models
New players establishing a digital presence only – will have both a lower cost base and the potential for a dialogue driven business model, giving them opportunities to beat established brands at the re-defined news game. Subscription only firewalls for e-papers – may become dangerously out of step in an age of transparency, not least because shutting out (or pricing out) potential readers will impact market share and global influence. Also, I do question how tabloids will fare long term, buffeted by recent scandals and by the ‘disposable’ nature of their content.
News Consumption Shift
However, we are looking at a very different approach to interaction and consumption, with multimedia and Transmedia Platforms becoming the norm over the next two decades. But some media organisations have a distinctly traditional 20th-century mindset – recycling existing print stories online, adding a video link or two and then Tweeting as if they were something new. But it is no longer enough. The Citizen Journalist and WikiLeaks era have stimulated innovation in journalism – where consumers actively participate in news analysis and sharing – even in news narrating – so a wake-up call is required if established newspaper brands are to remain relevant.
Not only are we getting our current affairs in different ways, but the proliferation of an alternative news ecosystem – sourcing from social networks, video, blogs, comment and investigative journalism – means the digital media universe is going to expand and shout even louder. With emerging Transmedia formats on offer, we now happily switch between multiple devices, depending on our lifestyle, location and immediate needs. The digital transformation is well underway and sourcing news has already undertaken a whole new more authentic form.
The social media marketing and advertising industry is still embryonic. Its potential for pioneering new methods of reaching people will have a profound impact. While this makes grim reading for the newspaper industry, I actually believe we will still have print newspapers in 2040. The survivors will be defined by their quality and authenticity. Maybe, also, there will be a nostalgic flavour in our choice – so we will buy our weekend paper, just as today we head to the farmers’ market to experience ‘the real thing’.
Ultimately, what will increase is consumer power and choice – whether we are talking newspapers or, for that matter, books and TV. There are huge challenges ahead – as media takes on an entirely new meaning – but also exciting opportunities to champion approaches that win the trust and hearts of tomorrow’s well-informed and influential readers.
* Internet issues facing newspapers – Clay Shirkey Video >>
* The Economist Special Report: Bulletins from the future >>
* Gigaom: Back to the future: >>
* Seven Myths About Transmedia Storytelling Debunked: >>
* ‘Good Riddance to Mainstream Media’ – (full debate): Video >>
* Unilever to shake up £5.1bn global advertising spend >>
* Cost Cuts Are in Store for P&G and Unilever >>
Anne Lise is a futurist and keynote speaker working across the world