Newspapers with 2020 vision

I just finished writing an essay for the World Association of Newspapers answering their question: What will newspapers be in 2020? And I see that my friend Dave Morgan is writing an essay answering the same question for the Newspaper Association of America. I’m glad the industry is so optimistic to believe there is a 2020 for them.

Here’s my essay (warning: 2,400 words of Jarvispeak). Please do give me feedback (it’s due tomorrow!). The lede (will we still be using such quaint newspaperisms in 2020?):

“By 2020, we had better hope that newspapers aren’t just papers anymore but are valued members of larger networks that enable their communities to gather, share, and make sense of the news they need.”

Here are the issues Dave is exploring; he, too, is asking for feedback here.

* Dave, like me, chose not to see newspapers as newspapers: “However, I do believe that there will be many large and very robust local news, information and advertising media products; probably, in fact, many, many more of them than we have today, particularly in large metro markets.”

* A bold, tree-saving prediction: “All media will be digital. There may still be some analog components in the supply chains of media companies, but analog will be a very small part of the business. . . . I do believe that we will have virtually no paper-based media products in 2020. . . . We won’t have paper because it is a very expensive and wasteful way to deliver news and information.”

* He says that these news products will not be one-size-fits all; couldn’t agree more. “Consumers will get best-of-breed information services from many different providers.”

* “There will be many, many different digital media devices. Many of these devices will be portable; all will be networked. . . . And most devices will permit users to communicate and create, not just consume.” We can only hope so.

* “Media brands will matter — but old brands will matter less.” I’m not sure how much I agree with this. In an atomized media architecture, facts and updates will be mushed together in many forms. Brand — read: trust — will matter but I’m not sure we yet know how brand will travel with content.

* He says that applications will be as important as products. “Discovering, editing, synthesizing, analyzing news and information and advertising is what will attract and retain consumers.” Again, I hope so. I don’t think we’ve seen much innovation in this arena . . . yet.

* A prediction I like: “Sending someone to a city council meeting for three hours to file a four-paragraph recitation of events will be worthless in 2020. Consumers and competition will demand much, much more, and in fact will be able to virtually attend such a meeting themselves.” That can be as simple as putting up a podcast. I’ve been arguing, to no end, that local news organizations should be getting neighbors to go record and podcast every town meeting.

Dave says that competition will be fierce and there will be winners — among them consumers who get more and better information — but “newspaper companies are very likely not to be winners.” I hit that same idea in my essay, saying that there’s no reason whatsoever to believe that the incumbents will be the survivors.