Does the Newspaper Have a Future?

thesis mcmaster psychology (First in a two-part series about the future of newspapers and other media.)

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Reports of the death of the newspaper have been greatly exaggerated. But newspapers – along with magazines and other static media whose best days may have been in the previous century – will have to adapt quickly to a new culture defined by rapid, multi-tasking consumption of highly personalized information.

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follow That’s an over-simplified summary of futurist John Naisbitt’s discussion at last week’s Digital Life Design Conference in Munich, Germany, and richly amplified on by two friends of Force for Good in subsequent interviews for this blog.

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http://akada.org/hbs-business-plan/ “When we talk about the death of newspapers, we are talking about the death of a certain culture — not of newspapers necessarily,” saidNaisbittthumb Naisbitt, best-known for his 1988 best-seller Megatrends.

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follow link “Newspapers and magazines have to reinvent themselves, as people are reading less, especially young people," said Naisbitt (left). "Then again, you have all the visual images coming up. Today, architecture is the most important art form in the world. Political movements identify with a color. People wear bracelets that indicate a certain affiliations. But it is not either/or, it’s just that the mix is changing. In today’s mix we are having fewer newspapers, fewer and better magazines.”

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Don’t assume that changes unfolding today will continue to progress in identical ways in the future, Naisbitt warned.

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“We’re still doing straight-line extrapolation,” he said. “That’s not what happens. There’s a collusion of interplay between many forces at once.”

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A disruptive event, such as the introduction of a new technology, often jolts society off the expected course, making prior predictions seem silly. Naisbitt cited the anticipated demise of big cities predicted by late-nineteenth century futurists who were alarmed at the growing problem of horse dung piling up in the streets. Of course, they did not envision other means of mobility, notably the automobile, displacing horse and buggies.

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And while change today happens with incredible speed, the complete application and implication of the change agent often takes longer than we expect, says Dr. Georg Kolb, executive vice president in charge of innovation at global technology public relations firm Text 100.

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“Change cycles are shortening but so are our expectations for change. It’s always not as fast as we think it should be,” Kolb says in that wonderfully German-speaking-English construction of the negative. “The word of the year in 2004 was ‘blog.’ At the time, it felt like the emerging blogosphere would change the corporateGeorg_kolb_3 world in a heartbeat. Over two years later, less than 10% of Fortune 500 companies do have corporate blogs. While this is a significant change, it doesn’t happen as fast as many thought in 2004."

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The frustratingly slow evolution to third-generation wireless networks (3G) is another example, Kolb (left) says. “Huge investments have been made in 3G — when will the pay-off be? How many years after companies have bought all these licenses?”

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Kolb agrees with Naisbitt that newspapers will continue to die but a smaller number will survive well into the future. “Those that are nimble enough to adjust to the rapidly changing media landscape will prosper,” he says. “Newspapers need to look for new business models as their traditional sources of revenue are drying up. They’re losing display ad revenue to digital media like Google, and Craig’s List is taking away much of their classified ad revenue.”

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Kolb believes that surviving media will complement each other better than they do today. “The mix of media will change,” he says. “Newspapers may provide deeper context and insight, while hard news will come from on-line sources.”

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And don’t forget about the role of citizen-generated media. “As you point out in your last Force for Good post,” Kolb says, “citizen journalists will provide a fresh perspective, maybe just an emotional, real-time reaction to the news as it unfolds, without much context. If you want some context and meaning, you will need a professional journalist, likely writing in a newspaper. Together, this collection of news channels will provide a richer media environment.”

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Read more of Georg Kolb’s thoughts in the blog he co-edits: HYPERtext.

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(Next post: the “Future of newspapers and other media” conversation continues. Force for Good keeps the German theme going with an interview with Mihaela Lica, author of the blog: “eWritings – SEO Web Design and Online Public Relations.”)

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- Jon Harmon

Comments

  1. Georg Kolb says:

    First off, thanks for joining the discussion, Jon. We needed a strong voice reminding us how PR can and should be a force for good!
    Just a quick fact check on the pick up of blogs by large corporations. I said that less than 10 % of the Fortune 500 are blogging today. The precise number, as presented by the Fortune 500 business blogging wiki, is 8 % http://www.socialtext.net/bizblogs/index.cgi
    Also, I’m glad you are keeping up with the German theme. More “wonderfully German-speaking-English constructions of the negative” coming up :-)

  2. Jon Harmon says:

    Thanks for the more precise figure and for posting the comment so quickly on a Sunday, Georg. And thanks for taking my good-natured comment in the spirit it was intended. :-)

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