Andy Kessler offers his two cents on the future of newspapers in today's Wall Street Journal. Somewhat ironically, Kessler argues that traditional newspapers aren't going away anytime soon because newsprint is easier to read than web pages, but then he posts the entire article on his blog (which is nice if you don't happen to have a WSJ subscription).
I agree that the reason newspapers aren't going to disappear overnight is that most readers still prefer newsprint to the computer screen. But I'm not sure this is going to be permanent.
I'm 30 years old, and I've never really gotten the hang of folding and unfolding a printed newspaper. Even bi-fold tabloids and magazines feel clunky to me. For the past 10 yeas or so I've been getting most of my news online, and I prefer the ability to quickly scan something on a computer screen, download it to my PDA, or save it as an HTML file if I need to archive it.
If I need to write notes on an article, I'm still not happy with my digital options, but I've got this handy thing called a printer plugged into my computer. The occasional 8.5 x 11 printout is a lot cheaper than a newspaper subscription.
As a journalist, I do feel a little guilty that I don't subscribe to the local paper, but as long as they're giving away their product for free, I'm going to take advantage of it. Hopefully they'll find new revenue streams besides advertising and subscriptions as they move online. As Kessler mentions, licensing their technologies may be one way to go.
For example, let users post a branded widget on their blog or website with the latest headlines from your site. This builds brand recognition, could drive traffic to your site, and could even net you a few subscribers in the long run. You could even put a small advertisement in the widget and split the revenue with the web publisher.
[via Doc Searls]