Allan Takes Aim Blog

Your future local newspaper: read all about it

Posted on: 14 September 2010

 First published The Chronicle Canberra, Tuesday 14 September  

Prophets of doom regularly forecast that technology will kill off newspapers. Let me turn prophet and say in return that if these prophets are relying on making a living as doom forecasters they had better start searching for more likely corpses than newspapers. As they search they will join that long queue of doom prophets, some of recent vintage and some who still prophecy that the end of the world is nigh and some who have become corpses and passed into legend, for making prophecies even more curious than that about newspapers.

Today, of course, climate change has spawned greater numbers of doom prophets than a mangy dog’s got fleas; they are also greater in number than the doomsayers spawned by the Y2K bug. The fact is, from time immemorial doomsayers have been prophesying that mans’ actions spelled doom to the earth and man himself. Millenniums from now I suspect that doom prophets will still be making the same forecasts.  

Some of you might not agree with me but nonetheless it’s my belief that although some newspapers might not last, community newspapers like The Chronicle have a long future ahead of them.  However, while saying that it is clearly evident that technology is already revolutionising newspapers while at the same time recognising that in the past, just as revolutions caused death, they also initiated progress.

In the case of newspapers the progress I see is the expansion of the newspaper industry albeit in electronic form. Indeed scientists already are developing tablets with roll-up screens, which means that newspapers and magazines with a common page size, both broadsheet and tabloid, could be produced.

For example, instead of being a newspaper of say 40 pages that combines news, sport, science and business etc with supplements, the Canberra Times will have a number of online papers dedicated to particular subjects: Politics, Business, Environment, Science, Sports etc. People will pay a subscription for whichever sections they want with each paper supported by advertisers keen to target the paper’s particular market.     

I would suggest also that each newspaper would not be tied to a daily issue but a newspaper that would continually update news and events a format, I believe, that would lead to more work for journalists. And the fact that the content could be archived daily basis would also simplify the problem of research. I believe too, that such a format could lead to greater competition, better journalism, happier advertisers and happier readers and am in no doubt that it will also be possible for these papers to be produced is a style that makes it easy for people with disability to enjoy them.

Although these individual papers will cater for particular markets what they won’t do is cater for the general news that interests many in local communities who, not interested in the issues of the broadsheets or perhaps cannot afford the subscription, are interested in the same subjects at a local level. By cherry picking the broadsheets and adding local interest features and stories, community newspapers like The Chronicle, could not only remain free and online, they could become more influential than they are today. 

When this happens, as I am sure it will, one of the common complaints that free community newspapers face of having too much advertising will disappear. You might not agree with me but I think the complaint of too much advertising is a bit like complaining about the weather. Many people complain when there is an extended period of high temperatures then complain when an extended period of wet weather sets in. Like all of us, they would be happy if they could switch the weather on and off like an air conditioner. Well advertising is a much the same, it’s either too much or too little      

However, without advertising, how would people be made aware of special events and special prices at the local supermarket or shops? The fact is, like them or not, local newspapers such as The Chronicle are integral to informing people about their local community.

And that’s the reason, as I said earlier, that I think newspapers like The Chronicle will be around for along time yet.

The Chronicle for Canberra’s best community news. Published every Tuesday


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