Entrepreneur magazine predicts extinction of newspapers in 10 years

I've been blabbing my head off recently about how the Internet is going to lay waste to some very cherished and iconic industries. Among them I include magazines, television, and yellow pages. But one in particular is bleeding out a little faster than the others that I mentioned, that is newspapers.

So when I cam across this article from Entrepreneur magazine that annually predicts the best and worst businesses for the future. So in the related article, entitled "10 Businesses Facing Extinction in 10 Years", I am not surprised to see newspapers appear for the first time on the list. According to the article "the Audit Bureau of Circulations twice has posted drops averaging 2.1 and 2.8 percent over six-month periods". The quick summary of the future of newspapers does, however, predict that newspapers will not disappear completely, they'll just transfer completely over to the Internet.

There are two big questions this prediction raises. First, why areNewspapers to disappear? newspapers going to drop like flies trapped inside for too long? And second, will Puerto Rican newspapers fair a different fate? We know that the Internet is placing incredible pressure on newspapers, but just exactly why? Well here are the main reasons:

  • Classified advertising used to be a cash cow for newspapers. Charging customers by the word and line, these popular sections for buyers and sellers are now pointless. Hello, anyone ever heard of a site called Ebay? But there are also sites like Craigslist and ClasificadosOnline.com which are eating the candy of newspapers everywhere, even here. When you are looking for that elusive trinket or collectible, why search line by line in the newspaper, when you can conduct power searches over the Internet?
  • It's very cost inefficient to run a newspaper. Want to know how to predict the future of business? Stay on the lookout for any brick and mortar (atom-based) business that is competing against a rival that is predominantly electronic (computerized). It costs newspapers a lot of money to operate a printing plant (paper, ink, maintenance of the printing press) and distribute those newspapers to all of their subscribers.
  • I wonder, do you think that we, as a society, value instant gratification? You think? It takes newspapers 24 hours to refresh the news. It takes the television news about 6 hours, unless the news is worthy of interrupting normal broadcasts for special breaking news. The Internet is refreshed constantly 24 by 7.

While there are some other potential factors, such as the ineffectiveness of advertising and the use of alternative media for news (think Internet on the computer, on the cellphone, on the BlackBerry) the prognosis is very clear most newspapers will disappear very soon. However, I don't agree with the time frame. To quote Arthur C. Clarke "We tend to overestimate technology in the short term and underestimate it in the long term." Technology, and yes newspapers are technology (just a very old one...), tends to be very stubborn to get rid of. It will be a while until it is as easy and convenient to take the Internet to the bathroom.

As far Puerto Rico is concerned, then we will see the usual delays. It will take longer here for any technology to displace newspapers. If you factor in that newspapers are the number 1 advertising media channel in Puerto Rico, then that delay will take even longer. That said, I don't foresee the Vocero, nor the San Juan Star, will be with us too much longer. I'm not sure what to think about the future of the regional newspapers. My guess is that they will be the last to go. With a very niche market, a predominantly disconnected niche market, they provide a service the Internet can not match.