Sunday, May 31, 2009

Newspapers

This column in Slate.com argues that this is the 'beginning of the end' of the Newspaper industry.

While the columnist may be accused of going ahead of himself and ground reality here, I am not sure if what he's saying is all that bad. In other words, like every institution in the world, there shall also be an expiry date for Newspapers. Newspapers as vehicles of information have already lost their pristine position in most countries(specially the West) and it is only more likely that they would eventually phase out into oblivion in next few decades.

This change is obviously symptomatic of the Digital divide we see. The older folks are more comfortable with newspaper pages while the younger ones are drifting towards digitized version of news reading. What more, the kids (if at all they want the news) have more and more options and variety than paper news.

I have mixed feelings on this. I like the idea of sitting and/or stretching my legs and reading newspaper while having a cup of tea next to me. Specially on lazy Sundays. But with the new WWW era, most news that shows up in the paper form is already stale. I have read most of it in train either on my iphone or on the Internet.

It's only natural for newspapers to fall off the radar in an era of instant consumption. It's like some New Yorker was quoted as saying.. "In New York we get tomorrow's news yesterday". It's that fast now.

While newspapers and books (who may get some competition from Kindle kinds) may never completely go into the coma, they will now be 'complementary' or 'side heroes'. Their era of Main role may well have gone. Which is a little sad, although not completely surprising. We've seen that happen with Radio. During my parent's generation Radio was the be-all-means-all source of everything in the media.
(It has to be noted though that radio is making a slow comeback, although I doubt it will ever be the same)

Another way to look at it is, when new inventions come to fore they do not completely push out the old systems. There's room for co-existence. I remember when India was slowly opening up it's economy (and this analogy may be slightly off the mark) there was an attack on KFC in Bangalore by the Shiv Sena / Swadeshi jagran kinds. It was argued that with KFC/McDonald's etc coming to India, the local Udipis/Sukh Sagars/Wada Pav industry will go out of job. Of course nothing like that really happened and we have only seen both forms of fast food / junk industry peacefully co-exist and even grow and multiply in most cases.

Newspapers and Radio will always be there and will co-exist with the other fast paced/visually attractive mediums. And I seriously hope they do. The charm of old world order is always pleasant.

2 comments:

sameerdeo said...

You are right in saying newspapers may not become extinct. To add another one to the analogy you have already mentioned, consider the case of Movies. When CDs and DVDs arrived, everyone thought the good old cinema theatres will become a thing of the past. But they haven't. In fact they are complimentary to each other with the CDs and DVDs providing an alternate source of revenue long after a movies initial release.

Rathchakra said...

Sad but true, many newspapers have closed shop in the last couple of years (The Newseum has a neat memorial for these just a stack of newspapers which have shut down and there is room for growth). Although Radio was killed temporarily by TV and then further by the internet, it will not go away soon because it re-invented itself - Satellite radio for example. Until the newspapers do the same, they will soon be a thing of the past and will exist in museums or speciality stores like LP records and audio cassettes.(On another note they are not green.)