9: The future

Tomorrow is our permanent address. — Rusty Coats, general manager of Tampa Bay Online

If current readership trends continue, the last daily newspaper reader will check out in October 2044. — Professor Philip Meyer, author of "The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age."

After reading more than 250 articles, chapters and columns on the future of journalism, two things became evident: Everyone in the newspaper business has an opinion and most don't match.
It seems everyone who has ever worked in media has a suggestion for making it better, for how it should be done.
While journalism texts keep extolling the necessity of being trained across all platforms, a survey I conducted over the summer show only a tiny per cent of journalists actually get to work online. The majority of editors said they want fundamental journalism skills first and foremost.
The sentiment was echoed by a November 2006 Medill School of Journalism study that was reported covered in a Poynter Online story "Traditional Skills Most Important in Online Newsrooms."
And while no one is decrying anyone's desire to learn new media skills, apparently it shouldn't come at the expense of fundamentals.
Other experts laud the success of the BBC and their fantastic news site website.
But there is a story recounted in the first chapter of Journalism Online about a conversation between the BBC News' online project director Bob Eggington and a group of U.S. newspaper editors.
They wanted to know how the BBC managed such a strong online presence.
Bob looked at them and said, "Well here's my business model. We spend a lot of money to collect a lot of data. Then we make it free on the Web, for anyone to consume, and we don't make any money from it."
While this may work for the BBC and the official Chinese news agency Xinhua, in most of the world, the capitalist model predominates and makes this model unrealistic.
The attention economy seems to be the prevailing concept governing newspaper web design.
With so much to see on the web, attention has become the new gold standard, says Mike Ward in Journalism Online.
If you can get and keep reader's attention, then theoretically, that could translate into money.
This is the stage newspaper sites are in.
"We have to be prepared to deliver our content across every platform, anytime. We can no longer think of ourselves as just a paper, " says Kirk LaPointe, Vancouver Sun managing editor and the man behind the recent CanWest-wide repatriation of newspaper websites.
While it's true the audience is fragmenting, thanks to the website more people are reading our content than anytime in the past 15 to 20 years, said LaPointe.
"There are phenomenal devices to deliver content now, but that doesn't mean everyone wants to consume it soon.
So assuming the papers find a way to give readers exactly what they want, when they want it, there are more changes a foot.
E Ink Corp. has created a paper-thin video screen that combines the ease of reading words on paper with the Internet's access to information. Their chief executive Russ Wilcox believes they'll have a foldable paper-thin computer screen/newspaper by 2015.
He predicted the price would be less than $300. With newspaper spending about $150 per year per reader on paper, it would be in their financial best interest to give these screens away to subscribers.
The next big step then would be to provide city-wide Internet access, something known as Wi-Max and already in the works.
Niall Kennedy, a web technologist in San Francisco, said in his blog that the only sure way to make money from the Internet is to buy a hydroelectric dam, set up a server farm beside it and get on the grid by running fibre optic cables to the nearest town.
Oh wait. Google just did that.
And there are rumours Yahoo! and Microsoft are following suit.

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