I've received a couple of cross emails about my piece yesterday suggesting that the end of UK newspapers is nigh and that some form of tablet computer will be the new means of consuming news, comment and features.
It's pertinent that the messages were emails, of course, because those who take a Canute-like stance to the collapse of newspapers as we know them should surely follow their logic and send letters by general post. But then a great deal of the argument for the continuation of newspapers is emotional, little of it rational and none of it concerned with economics. We associate newspapers with freedom of expression, with civilisation and plurality and for many of us they are a dearly loved piece of our lives and help define the way we think about ourselves and others. We know what people mean when they say he is a bit of Guardian type, she's a Daily Mail reader or that old buffer is a Telegraph cove.
'CD' writes to say that if I "have my way" (an unlikely outcome in the current democratic political environment) then news and comment will be dominated by "unscrupulous bloggers", teenagers and assorted non-professional types. Not at all: newspapers can retain their elevated role by doing exactly what they are doing now editorially but only if they make massive changes to their delivery models and commercial premises. They might have to accept reduced revenue but then they may finally achieve genuine profitability.
I've said before that print media has certain advantages but the problem today is that these are massively outweighed by the negatives. It might be worth looking at how things would be if newspapers had been developed after the internet, wireless networks and cheap mobile electronic devices.
Imagine the press conference:
Speaker: 'Well, we're here to announce a real breakthrough here today. It's called paper and we think it's going to change the face of the media. We're going to break the stranglehold of the internet by making information broadly available to people wherever they are through a medium that is cheap, portable, flexible and disposable and yet offers a rich, graphical user interface. So you've all had a chance to see it, let's skip straight to Q and A.'
Reporter: 'How much does it cost?'
Speaker: 'We're looking at two commercial models, selling it for 50p to Â£2 per edition or giving it away in larger volumes for an ad-funded model.'
Reporter: 'What's the delivery model?'
Speaker: 'Couple of options. We can print in huge volumes and low cost then distribute it via a network of agents and ultimate fulfilment will be provided by children delivering the product door to door, much like the general mail. Otherwise we can send it to you by special delivery.'
Reporter: 'Surely that will be cripplingly expensive?'
Reporter: 'Can you cut and paste with it?'
Speaker: 'Yes. Once."
Reporter: 'What about latency?'
Speaker: 'We've got it down to matter of hours between story breaking and the reader finding out.'
Reporter: 'How do I find stories I'm interested in?'
Speaker: 'By grazing through all the stories.'
Reporter: 'How do you manufacture this stuff? Is it green?'
Speaker: 'We chop down forests but the end material washes away quite easily after it's blown down the street for a day or two. Assuming it rains...'
Reporter: When can you break even publishing newspapers?
Speaker: Maybe never but they make a great political platform for owners.
[Collapse of all parties.]