Can design really save the newspaper?
How long will the newspaper survive in its current form, is a question that many people have been increasingly asking for the last few years. Who wants to pay for yesterday’s news, asks Jacek Utko in this talk at TED.com. What, if anything, can newspaper owners and publishers do to ensure its survival. Many suggestions have been made – make newspapers free, change the size, make them local or community driven or even opinion-driven instead of news-driven. Perhaps they should only serve niche areas.
Jacek Utko is a very talented award-winning Polish architect turned newspaper designer. He believes that design can be the saviour for the newspaper industry. He has redesigned several newspapers in Eastern Europe resulting in as much as 100% increased circulation for at least one Bulgarian newspaper, and upto 35% of an increase for other papers in Russia and Estonia.
In this talk Jacek Utko suggests that in order for newspapers to reconnect with their readers, they need to redefine themselves. So before he even looks at revamping the design of a newspaper, he sits down with the senior people at the newspaper to assist them in taking a fresh look at their goals and business objectives. The second step is for the content to be analyzed and adjusted in accordance with the new goals. Only then does he look at radcially transforming the design. The idea really is to improve the product completely.
Jacek believes that a change in design not only improves the product, it improves the workflow and the branding, and even changes the company and the people who work there.
Will this kind of design and content change really save the newspaper? Or is it just going to delay the inevitable? Certainly worth pondering on.
Is the survival rate for newspapers going to be different in developing countries, where some say newspapers are still thriving. Personally I am not sure they are. Those of us who are computer literate and have access to computers have stopped buying newspapers for our homes and offices. We prefer subscribing to newsgroups and newsfeeds and occasionally we pick up one of the better newspapers simply out of curiosity. If we have a preferred column in any of the daily newspapers, we read it online. Most young people never did read newspapers and now with the option of the internet where they can access news on topics which appeal to them, they really have no interest in newspapers other than looking out for employment ads on sundays – even those can be accessed through jobsites now. There was a time our parents encouraged us to read newspapers to improve our language skills. I doubt most parents would want to do that today given the state of newspapers in this country.
As for those with no access to technology, the older generation are reading newspapers and will probably continue to do so – many have turned to radio and television for a lot of the news and analysis – such as it is. The others will slowly gain access to technology as prices of desktop computers, PDAs and smart phones continues to drop. As for the illiterate population, newspapers have never really had a role to play in their lives except for one literate person in a community reading a paper out to them. The proliferation of television has reduced that to a large extent.
Newspapers really do need to reinvent themselves no matter which part of the world they are published in. They will not disappear totally because there will always be a segment of the population who will want newspapers in paper form. However the commercial viability of such media will be in question as significant numbers of people access news in more interesting ways – on their computers and their mobile phones.
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