I recently had the outstanding opportunity to attend the INMA conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The conference was two packed days: Day 1 focused on methods to maximize circulation revenue put together by the North American Division of INMA and Day 2 focused on the new technology of tablets put together by the European Division of INMA. The tablet summit was a follow-up to the Oxford summit held early this year.

While it was something that I have suspected and talked about for quite some time, this author came away with an increasingly enhanced view of the future of the printed product. We can debate the time-line, impact and sequence of events; but the tablet technology is going to change our industry forever, and many will be unable to withstand the impact of this pending tsunami-like impact on our industry.

Here is what we know and cannot dispute:

 

  • Circulation when measured in copies per thousand population has been decreasing for nearly 90 years.
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  • Circulation when measured by any standard has been declining for 30+ years.
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  • Those declines have only accelerated over the past few years.
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  • Younger readers are abandoning print in record numbers and that trend only stands to accelerate with the constant advent of new mobile devices.
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    In addition to the above ominous trends, the Internet and mobile technology is constantly providing new and additional devices that will only serve to increase the impact of these trends on our print products. While we should focus on the technology and not necessarily the individual tablets, it is hard to ignore the success of the iPad. Apple has sold in excess of 10 million IPads in a very short time. Fact of the matter is that they have sold more iPads in a timeframe that has never been seen in the history electronic devices on this planet. TVs, radios, cell phones, and whatever you wish to compare haven't even come close to the speed at which the iPads have flown off the shelves. In short, this technology is changing and subsequently transforming the computing world right before our eyes at rate unseen in the modern world — a very difficult trend to ignore and we do so at our own peril.

    This blog post is far to short to go into all the great presentations presented in Cambridge, but many left with a new appreciation for what is coming. I would encourage any and all newspaper executives to experience this new technology and do so quickly. In looking back over the past 20 or so years since Al Gore presented us with the Internet, we have seen massive change evolve in that 20 years. Change that still leaves our industry perplexed and behind the eight-ball. I would submit that we won't have 20+ years to figure this one out, our measurement period may well be measured in two- to three-month increments in lieu of year increments. We have to join the competition and jump in head first, no longer do we have time to wait and see what unfolds.

    To quote a great industry leader from Toronto, Andree Gosselin O'Meara: “It is better than we shoot ourselves in the foot than have the competition shoot us in the heart.”