The Economist’s CEO: Tablets Will Kill Print News in 25 Years

Newspapers and Magazines are ever mindful of the burgeoning power of digital media. This time of change and uncertainty in the publishing industry has led content providers to diversify. The unintentional upside for readers being that they may now have as many as four different ways (print, web, tablet, smartphone) to read their information instead of just one.

Speaking at the Paley Center For Media’s conference, News at the Speed of Life: A Global Conversation on the Reinvention of Journalism in Madrid yesterday, The Economist CEO Andrew Rashbass said that even though “print circulation is at record highs” that “it’s not fashionable to say it, but I think, frankly, (the future) will be all digital. I don’t know when that will be exactly, but the idea that mass printing of paper will be around in 25 years is odd.”

Hmm. What does he mean by odd? Eccentric, like a middle-aged classic rock devotee who still listens to Journey on cassette during his commute, or unthinkable, like a news outlet choosing to mimeograph, fax, or hand letter its editions would be today? At the moment digital is still niche. Paper is still the way most folks get their news, but it’s not hard to imagine the situation reversing over time. Digital could become the de facto method for information distribution with paper becoming quaint, and popular only with those who cling to it with the same ferocity seen in audiophiles who prefer vinyl to MP3s or anyone who still champions letterpress over offset printing.

At the moment the Economist has a solid digital presence. According to their website, “Print and digital subscribers receive full access to each week’s edition of The Economist on Android, iPhone and iPad and The Economist online.” The Economist is available through Apple’s Newsstand. The Economist also has a FlipBoard channel that draws content from Economist.com.

It looks like the Economist is hedging its bets.

Will FlipBoard and similar content aggregators become the dominant way readers get news, or is there still a place for traditional, single outlet publications to reach their audience?

Speaking of his publication’s appearance on FlipBoard, Rashbass told paidContent:

“They didn’t ask me (to include our content) and, if they did, I’d probably have said ‘no’.”

“It’s not a creative reimagining in some way – it’s a head-on competitor. I don’t think it’s that significant, the (Economist.com) team obviously felt they wanted to do it. Let’s see – I’m happy to see experimentation and change minds later.

“But you’re heading down a route we’ve seen before – giving the opportunity to extract value to somebody else in an area that should be our own – so Flipboard is problematic.”

Rashbass doesn’t object to paying Apple its cut on Newsstand proceeds. “I don’t find the 30 percent problem problematic,” he said. “The majority of people in this room have always worked through third parties – whether through newsstands or other things. Even we have always have a newsstand presence.”

[via paidContent]

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About Emily: Emily is a freelance writer who loves discovering new apps whenever she can pry the iPad away from her children or husband. You can contact her via Twitter: @whatwentwrite