After Hours

Peter Cochrane's Blog: RIP newspapers

Time for a news paradigm shift

Compiled on the 06.53 Ipswich to London train, and dispatched to silicon.com via wi-fi from The Institute of Directors in London

It had to happen sooner or later: newspapers are starting to abandon their traditional paper format to escape their certain and progressive demise. With the sales and readership of newsprint declining steadily everywhere, something had to give!

Just last week, news came that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer will switch to an all-online format, reducing staff from more than 160 to around 20 people. And perhaps more significant: it will now do less original reporting and more regurgitation of stories from multiple sources.

Will it work? No doubt about that. But will it make money? That depends on the business model and everyone is struggling with that conundrum right now. The Post lost $14m last year so it had to do something quickly.

Today it isn't clear what the future business model will be for newspapers but like radio and TV there are probably far too many of them for the newsworthy material available day-on-day. So some form of rationalisation is on the cards, as is the customisation for individual audiences. The only 'Daily X' I want is the 'Daily Me', and that is the real challenge - an audience of one!

News isn't a constant entity that comes in a 'one-size-fits-all' package of a finite number of pages. Some days there is no news, or at least no news of interest to me, and many others I want to follow more stories than I have time for. But the newspaper has to be filled with copy in the same way the 10 o'clock news has to fill a 60-minute TV slot.

Perhaps this transition away from paper will see a customised 'variable space news channel' adding real value to the information space. Which, funnily enough, is where newspapers started - as a variable length broadsheet aimed at specific interest groups.

About

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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