If one sees this question in the light of the present scene in India, where a large populace still does not even have access to newspapers, the answer would be a NO. Flat and loud. As long as India is a developing country (and it is likely to remain so for a long, long time), newspapers will actually grow and prosper. No doubt about that.
Then why did I ask this question?
Let’s narrow down the ‘doamin’ a bit. Let’s just restrict our thinking to ourselves. By ourselves I mean, the people who have access to internet resources, and need the net like air, water and food. Will it be curtains to the newspaper for people like us?
Let’s think practically. We read newspapers to keep ourselves updated about what is happening in the world. The information that we get from the paper is atleast a day old. In this age of ‘instant’ communication, how relevant is a source of information which gives you the news that is a day, sometimes even 2 days late? (take any d/n match of this world cup, and wou’ll see what I mean.)
We read newspapers not just for ‘information’, but for ‘knowledge’, too. Many articles, especially the editiorials are meant to make you ‘think’ about them. But what if we have an online version of the paper available? The ‘knowledge’ can still be gained. What’s even more, a recent survey in the US has found out, that of all the people who read news online, more people actually finish reading an article once they’ve started with on the net (75%), than those people who read the broad-sheet newspaper(about 55%). This, the survey feels, can be attributed to the fact that when people read stuff online, they are looking at only a single article at a time so they’re more likely to go through all of it, whereas in a broadsheet newspaper, as soon as you get slightly bored with the article you’re reading, your attention gets drifted to the other headlines and graphics present on the two sheets you’re facing, and there goes the article out of the window. This is what the surveyors felt, and I agree with them, for sometimes this happens with me, too.
Ads? Can be given on the net, too. No question about that. Once the online version of the paper has readership equivalent to, or more than it’s offline version, it really doesn’t matter where you’re giving your ad.
To improve their readabilty, the broadsheet newspapers can improve their graphics, can highlight the important headlines better. But so can a news site do, by making a separate column like ‘BREAKING NEWS’ and adding even better graphics. Reading online puts enormous strain on the eye, did anybody say that? Well, we’re getting better and better screens every year. In the very near future, such screens are bound to be available at low cost which’ll be as comfortable to read from as a broadsheet. Better quality of journalism? Well, good journalists, like any other professionals, are always up for sale. Any news company which pays good money, can have a good quality staff, irrespective of whether it outputs news online or on a broadsheet.
I don’t have anything against the newspaper. In any case, the internet still touches only the creme-de-la-creme of only urban India, and newspapers are not going to be out of circulation for quite a long, long time. But think of the situation where internet is available at low cost to everyone, everywhere.
People like myself will still read the newspaper. Why, it’s a part of my life! Reading one is a thing that I’ve been doing as the first thing in the morning for the past ten years or more, and nothing is as refreshing as the smell and feel of a fresh newspaper in my hand. But remember, in my formative years, I did NOT have access to the net.
The next geneartion won’t be so romantic about the good ol’ paper. The net will be the first thing they will notice in their lives, and they will consider the paper as old-fashioned, outdated and probably useless as well. They won’t know the joy of lying back in a chair, with a cup of tea in one hand, the other hand balancing the paper, mind fully relaxed, and getting ready for the day’s work. The newspaper is bound to lose value as soon as the generation 10-15 years younger than us grows up. And for people like us, that’ll be demise of the newspaper.