Paperless news has an uncertain future

Many media analysts blame the demise of newspapers on the industry’s late entry into online journalism. They argue that most newspaper owners were too set in their printing press ways and failed to realize the economic threat of the Internet.

Today, as many newspaper executives spend increasing amounts of capital on Web site development, I wonder how many of them have considered that stand-alone Web sites could soon die a similar death as ink-on-paper editions.

With so much traffic driven by social networks, the most obvious being Facebook and Twitter, it’s not hard to imagine a day when most readers rarely visit stand-alone news sites. It’s also not hard to imagine mobile devices with custom feeds that users set to receive news on selected topics. It’s truly not hard to imagine because a few tech-savvy folks already consume their news this way.

What does this mean for local newspapers that want to establish brand loyalty with readers? It could mean that the economic model for the future will rely on charging readers a few pennies per story via some sort of online accounting system. Charging a monthly subscription fee for access to a stand-alone site probably won’t interest enough consumers. And it’s difficult to understand the economic viability of online content continuing to be free for everyone.

I’m no media prophet, so I won’t predict the imminent death of dotcom journalism. But I sense its life expectancy may be decreasing.

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~ by bakerumedia on November 4, 2009.

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