The director of the California-based USC Annenberg School, Jeffrey Cole, has predicted the extinction of newspapers in the next few years, accelerated by high-speed broadband like the National Broadband Network (NBN).
Cole made the comments at the Realising Our Broadband Future forum being held at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney this week. He said the once-dominant America’s print industry will only be able to survive another 3-5 years due to the shift of news consumption from print to online.
He also highlighted the changing nature of news, where readers want up-to-the-minute updates on events and where teenagers are increasingly tuning into news online.
“Today teenagers don’t read newspapers and the evidence is clear; they never will,” Cole said.
“Teenagers today, especially in Australia [are] more interested in news than any teenagers in the last 70 years. They figured out that what happens half way around the world can change their lives. They’re just not going to the newspaper; they’re going online to get that information.”
According to Cole, when internet penetration reaches 30 per cent, offline newspaper sales decline in every country around the world.
“In America the decline is happening at a pace none of us could have seen. In Australia, it’s occurring slower but occurring nonetheless,” he said.
“The sad truth for newspapers with a silver lining is... every time one of their readers dies, they’re not replaced by a new reader.”
Cole gave the example of the San Francisco Chronicle, who lost 25 per cent of its circulation in the last 12 months.
Although offline newspapers are declining at an increased rate, online news is growing in popularity.
“Broadband is what saves newspapers, not only saves them but makes them flourish in the long term.”
He added that the disadvantages that are associated with newspapers such as the absence of audio and video disappears on online publications.
“With broadband, newspapers do survive and compete,” he said.