Futurist conversations: Ross Dawson and Gerd Leonhard on the future of newspapers

Continuing our series of conversations between fellow-futurist Gerd Leonhard of The Futures Agency and myself, here is our session on the future of newspapers.

Here are a few notes from our conversation:

* When I released my Newspaper Extinction Timeline, chronicling when newspapers would become irrelevant in each country around the world, it received a heated response.
* Are we interested in news, or in paper?
* We are now able to get rid of the printing and physical distribution, which can be up to 80% of the costs of creating newspapers and magazines, with significant environmental benefitsl
* The newspaper industry may not die but it certainly won’t grow, but the news business can and probably will grow.
* The future of “news-on-paper” is not nearly as interesting as the future of news – this is a far richer subject in terms of distribution, the role of journalists, the filtering of news and so on.
* A key issue is how similar or individual to others is the news we get.
* The far broader participation in content creation and resulting flood of content means we need professional editing and filtering.
* Print has been largely paid for by third-parties – advertisers – and that ecosystem has not fully developed in the online world.
* The long tail makes the overall market larger by accessing new markets that were not feasible before.
* Scaling costs commensurate with revenues in smaller markets brings out the potential for publishers to create multi-niche strategies.
* People need to see value before paying – for example in curation in specific sectors such as finance.
* Aggregators such as Flipboard could become a sector as big as cable TV.
* Murdoch’s iPad venture The Daily brings out the issue of whether people truly want a single editorial/ curation perspective, or rather multiple perspectives.
* Aggregation is a dirty word in the media industry, yet it is where much of the value resides to the consumer.
* The future is in ecosystems rather than ‘egosystems’ that are focused on an individual news system. There will still be egosystems, but far fewer than before.
* The transition to a new and undefined ecosystem is painful and challenging, but people want news and often are prepared to pay for it in various forms.