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Death of Newspapers Stirs Controversy

04 Nov 2010

Newspapers as we know them will cease to exist in the US within seven years. This would be followed by Britain and Iceland in 2019, and Canada and Norway a year later, according to media reports on futurist Ross Dawson of Future Exploration Network.

As reported by The Australian, Australia's concentrated print media ownership will push the lifespan of newsprint out by a couple of additional years to 2022, when they will also become extinct in Hong Kong, a year later than in Finland, Singapore and Greenland.

The propensity of governments to support newspapers in countries such as France will lengthen their lifespan until 2029 in that country and a year later in Germany, according to the author and chairman of the Future Exploration Network think tank.

It predicts newsprint will be "insignificant" in 52 countries by 2040 -- replaced by technologies such as lightweight, interactive digital paper that can show video, but can also be rolled and folded -- but forecasts it will continue to flourish in developing markets such as Africa, parts of South America and parts of Asia.

"In the developed world, newspapers are in the process of becoming extinct, driven by rapidly changing use of media and revenues out of line with cost structures," Mr Dawson said.

"There'll be a transition of what newspapers currently do to other channels of various kinds."

The predictions come as newspaper and magazine publishers in the US struggle with high debt levels, reduced advertising revenues and increasing competition from the internet.

Publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Times of London and The Australian are fighting back by developing applications that translate the reading experience to tablet computers and by experimenting with ways of charging for their online content.

"Australia is relatively early on in the timeline," Mr Dawson said.

"Australians are very rapid adopters of technology and most people are reasonably affluent," he said. "There is higher newspaper ownership concentration in Australia than almost anywhere else and that pushes it out further than some other English-speaking countries."

A trend towards local news and information would not save US newspapers provided digital print and mobile technologies continued to develop.

"The big overlay in all of this is we'll get digital paper that combines all the qualities of print and the benefits of digital within the next decade," said Mr Dawson, who predicted it would be easier and more convenient to use than tablet devices such as the iPad.

It would appear that Ross Dawson has caused quite a bit of controversy in media circles this week and has responded in his blog to the numerous articles.


His response is below:

Reactions to the Newspaper Extinction Timeline

It would be fair to say that my Newspaper Extinction Timeline has stirred up some controversy.

Reactions to the timeline has varied from taking the forecasts at face value, to more commonly scepticism at the pace of change I suggest, to a handful describing it as "complete rubbish".

It's worth providing a little background to why I have created the timeline. Given that the future is uncertain, I long believed that it was not appropriate to make specific prognostications. I thought (and still do) that scenario planning was the best way to help people understand the scope of uncertainty in the future, and to prepare effectively.

However in more recent years I have found that being more specific helps to focus people's minds. If they think the forecast may be right, then there is something very concrete that they have to think through and work out how best to respond. If they disagree, then they need to think through why they think the forecast is wrong, helping to crystallise their own thinking.


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