ALA TechSource Logo


curve Home spacer Publications spacer Subscribe spacer Blog spacer About  

All the News that's Fit to Stream

Submitted by Michael Stephens on November 1, 2010 - 12:19pm

Sitting in the waiting room of my physical therapist's office, I spied an abandoned copy of the local newspaper - the South Bend Tribune - on the stack of worn magazines. I had a few minutes so I took a look. A few realizations:

The paper is even thinner than when I subscribed. I wrote about canceling my subscription here in January of 2008. I have also noticed some of our library-related publications getting thinner and thinner with each month.

I had already seen the stories that interested me scanning my iPad news apps earlier in the morning or via our local NBC affiliate’s iPhone app.

I took a quick look at the online site for the paper and discovered some recent changes: the paper now has a mobile site for mobile devices, an iPhone application and a Twitter feed as well. I downloaded the app and added it to my news folder on the phone. The Twitter feed joined my local RSS feeds that sync across all of my devices.

Done with the newspaper, I went back to my iPhone to scan email and read some news. Great syncronicity - a fascinating article came into my aggregator from blogger Roy Greenslade at the Guardian. He reports on the coming demise of newspapers by “an Australian-based futurist, Ross Dawson:”

...newspapers will cease to exist in the US within seven years. They will die in Britain and Iceland in 2019, in Canada and Norway in 2020 and in Australia in 2022.

That's going to be a bad period for ink-on-dead-trees because papers will also become extinct in Hong Kong, Finland, Singapore and Greenland the the following couple of years.

But France, due to governmental support for newspapers, will have papers until 2029 and Germany will last out until 2030.

Dawson has published a "newspaper extinction timeline" on his blog, along with his reasoning.

In 2008, I was called “the face of the newspaper industry's business conundrum” by Rick Edmonds of the Poynter Institute  when a colleague found my post and sent it on to him for comment. I had “quit on print.” Now we have a futurist forecasting that print news in the US will be a faded memory by 2017 or so.

This , of course, makes me think of libraries. What will we put out on the tables every morning for folks who come in for coffee and news? Maybe some form of tablet, with an app that pulls in streams from local citizen journalists, local broadcast news, and bloggers.

What will become of the “clipping file” for those libraries still cutting and organizing. (I turned to my personal learning network on Twitter to guage if libraries still did such things for this post). I’m sure many libraries have digital version as well - as a few librarians reported. The print clippings are being thrown away as the clips are digitized.

Something else that’s even more exciting to contemplate is that the library could become a clearinghouse for local news via online communities of citizens. How would election coverage look then? How would scandal be reported?

Finally, I still haven’t “quit on print” - I am actually reading more than ever - the device and delivery just happens to be different. I’m getting more varied and interesting news stories, loads of commentary on subjects I follow, and the ability to share, remix and archive in my own way. Getting news stories via Twitter is a fave - now I can shoot the URL to my browser, Instatpaper, or to an archive for future use and sharing. So much wonderful stuff is available out there!

Well maybe I’ve quit print in the wrap up your fish and chips sort of way but I haven’t quit on content.

What about you, TechSource readers? What do you see for the future of news in your local libraries as print newspapers make that final march across the desert of extinction?

Comments (4)

So where will this new

So where will this new "printless" world leave those folks who do not have electronic devices. There are states where nearly half of the population does not own a computer connected to the internet, never mind own an electronic reading device.

I am worried that the continued prediction of the demise of print by those enamored of electronic devices is further deepening the digital divide. Those that have, have more, and those who have not are left out in the information cold.

Now, I do get much of my personal news electronically, but primarily from "journalist-based" sources (i.e. newspaper web sites).

You've biased the question so

You've biased the question so heavily through your wording--"as print newspapers make that final march across the desert of extinction"--that there's little point in a reasoned response. So I won't bother. Well, hey, 4% of daily newspapers went under in the last ten years, so certainly the other 99% will in the next seven years: An Australian fond of ludicrous projections says so.

Reading more than ever? Yes.

Reading more than ever? Yes. Reading more reliable, well-researched, well-edited, well-written commentary and news stories? No. Let's not forget what we are giving up when we stop paying for our news content.

Unfortunately if Dawson is to

Unfortunately if Dawson is to be believed we won't have long to enjoy this brave new world, as he has also predicted that libraries will be extinct by 2019 (to be closely followed by copyright and blogging). See

Or to put it another way: how reliable is Dawson as a source? What's his track record at predicting anything? I suspect that plenty of people will still be reading print newspapers in 2019 in the UK.

(Of course, that doesn't mean that libraries can't take advantage of the suggestions that Michael offers here: we could presumably start doing a lot of this right now, without waiting to see whether or not print dies...)