This is an old Editor&Publisher column written by our loved Dr. Leo Bogart with 12 Predictions about Newspapers in 2084.
Before Leo was INNOVATION’s Director in New York, he was the executive director of the Newspaper Advertising Bureau (NAB) and past president of the American Public Opinion research Association (AAPOR).
Rick Edmonds must be credited for the discovery of this fantastic piece.
Here there is:
Will newspapers still be published a century from now? My forecasts can be offered fearlessly, since no reader of these words can have any reason to dispute them until the next hundred years have passed. It takes no paranoid imagination to foresee a world devastated by nuclear catastrophe or by the consequences of environmental pollution, but such disturbing visions must be exorcised by anyone trying to plan for a manageable future.
There will be newspapers in 2084 but they will be quite different from those of today, in an age of vastly expanded communications resources. It is easy enough to project from existing trends to a society of far better educated people living longer, healthier, more rewarding lives. We can visualize a global economy becoming steadily more productive upon an ever-expanding base of new technology fueled by new sources of energy and stimulated by new adventures in space.
It is harder to foresee the changes in human values, aspirations, and behavior patterns than those in the material aspects of life. The division of labor between the sexes will be progressively less distinct; the ranks of the disadvantaged will be diminished as minorities find their way into the mainstream. With a growing population of vigorous older people, the definitions of work and leisure will be blurred.
The relationship between home and the workplace will be different, as home communications systems allow more personal business, shopping, and work activity to take place at home. All this will change the balance of cities and suburbs, and thus the physical appearance of the country itself.
Daily life will be very different when everyone can fly through the air with the greatest of ease and the wristwatch picturephone is a commonplace. Developments like these, and others now unimaginable, will change the public’s preoccupations and interests, change the content of the news, change people’s loyalties and identifications, and thus change the constituencies for news media.
The functions of all existing media will be transformed by the development of artificial intelligence, of two-way interactive linkages, and of ready access to vast amounts of stored information and entertainment. Not only will individuals be able to get what they want when they want it, but advertisers will be readily able to identify the individuals or households at whom they want to aim their messages. So where will newspapers fit in?
1. Newspapers will still appear in a printed format, simply because there is no more efficient way of encompassing and packaging a treat mass of complex information for easy and speedy retrieval.
2. The substance on which newspapers are printed will not be based just on woodpulp, but on an amalgam of raw materials selected to minimize both expense and effects on the environment.
3. Newspaper organizations will be comprehensive providers, rather than publishers. They will generate not a single uniform product, but a variety of products available to users through different means. These will include test and pictures (still and motion) in a video format (with the option of a wall-screen or a lap-board) and with a facsimile in-home printer for those willing to pay the extra price and to bear the inconvenience of maintaining a paper-recycling machine under the bed.
4. Newspapers will market a high share of the input available to them. Editorial copy that is now discarded, as well as the entire morgue of prior information, will be routinely sold in electronic or printed form to the limited number of customers who have a use for it, and new additional data sources will be developed.
5. High quality color will be universally available. Electronic controls will provide perfect register and tones for papers printed at ultra-high speed.
6. Decentralized production will make possible the up-to-the-minute, round-the-clock newspaper. Papers will be printed in small plants at many locations, with both editorial matter and advertising continually fresh and updated throughout the day by telecommunication.
7. There will be a revival of newspaper competition. Readers will have their choice of a variety of national dailies appealing to different tastes and interests. The development of low-budget production facilities and pooled distribution systems will make it possible for small-circulation papers to compete at the community level as well. No clear distinction will remain among newspaper, magazine, and book publishers, broadcasters, filmmakers, and telecommunications companies, all of whom will compete directly, offering timely information in both electronic and printed form.
8. Distribution systems will be competitive and comprehensive, delivering non-daily publications, advertising, product samples, and packages through professional, full-time adult carrier forces making the rounds of their assigned territories a number of times each day.
9. Newspapers will include a high proportion of individually customized content. Detailed marketing and media information on individual households will be routinely available. Inkjet printing methods will make it possible to tailor each paper to the recipient’s characteristics and wishes, with optional charges for supplements to the basic package. Advertising will be highly targeted, with ad copy and art beamed to fit the profile of each reader household.
10. Newspapers will still be a mass medium, providing a common core package of the information that most people need to orient themselves to the society around them. This will include the news they could not possibly anticipate as well as the special details that express their own individuality.
11. Readers will pay a larger share of the newspaper’s income than they do now, and advertisers less. This seems inevitable as newspapers provide the reader with additional values and as advertising itself becomes more competitive and more selective. By the year 2084, the classification of advertising as national or local will be meaningless, and a high proportion of product marketing will be done on an international scale.
12. Newspaper content will be geared to a more sophisticated reader. A better educated, more widely traveled population will demand authoritative reporting and good writing. But they will still come to the newspaper with the same expectations that have attracted readers for some three hundred years past: to satisfy their curiosity about what’s new, to widen their horizons, to learn what’s useful, and to find an unexpected laugh or two along the way.
Of one thing we can be sure. Since their origins, newspapers have generated and spread ideas, stimulated controversy, sought the truth, and exposed inequity. A century from now, these tasks will be no less essential, and the need to do them with conviction, grace and style will be no less urgent.
(Thanks to Gabriel Sama)
, Leo Bogat
, Rick Edmonds