Envisioning the media future

At a recent conference to release the EyeTrack07 results at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, design and media guru Mario Garcia predicted the future of the world’s media, based on the American and European experience.

Many traditional journalists might feel uneasy about his vision, but Dr. Garcia is fairly certain that:

* printed newspapers will shrink to A4 size, which is “just larger than TIME magazine.”

* newspaper companies must start thinking of themselves as news companies. The concern should be about who broke the story first, rather than whether it was the printed newspaper that got it.

The press in India, like many other sectors of the economy, has tremendous scope for growth. After all, an entire generation of Indians is becoming affluent, literate and eager to integrate into the knowledge economy. They will all start with printed newspapers and presumably, niche magazines. Of course, with its “nil literacy” legacy, television is a step ahead of print and reaping the early mover advantage. A lot of the statistics on the growth of the media is available in this summary of the National Readership Study 2006 at The Hindu’s website.

Such a forecast may not of course have completely factored in the growth in computer and Internet penetration in India, where the base of PCs was 19 million in 2006 (Gartner) and the shipments during the year stood at 5 million (IDC). It is also uncertain whether this figure has taken into account the growing penetration of laptops.

It is possible that with alternative channels of Internet access, including mobile phones (growing at around 5 million a month), there may be a critical mass of people ready to consume news digitally, leapfrogging the printed newspaper as the primary provider in just a couple of years.

Dr. Garcia’s forecast is very relevant in such a context, because his fundamental point is about breaking news on the Internet and via mobile phones.

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