Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Future news could look like this

I've been thinking a lot about the newspaper of the future. Judging from the following, I've probably thought about it too much.

The following is an idea of a perfect paper for one fictional reader. It lists many ideas to consider. I don't think any publication can jump through all the requested hoops, but different publications are choosing which hoops would be good for their readers. This potential reader is very demanding, but offers some trade-offs benefit for the newspaper.

Future newspaper

I want a tree-free (guilt-free) newspaper delivered to my door or available at the grocery store. It'll be a CD with the entire daily newspaper searchable on it. It has every story and photograph from every section and all the zoned editions (suburban sections) so I can browse through it on my laptop while I ride the train to a business meeting or college class. These CDs are more valuable to me than a pulp newspaper and easier to store.

Unlike the printed newspaper, I can customize my computer screen to make it easier for me to read the text. Likewise, my grandmother's eyes are not as good as they once were and she needs larger letters than the newspaper font.

Since I must multitask, I want to have a daily screen saver of all the day's images (photos and graphics). As I see an interesting image appear, I can click on the screen, and it'll bring me the related story. This makes me more interested in the news each day and makes your advertisers happier.

However, I want the children at the school of my choice to get credit for all the newspaper I would have recycled if I had gotten the paper edition. Since my neighborhood is the best (everyone thinks this of their neighborhood), I want the children to get full credit in the NIE (Newspaper In Education recycling) competition.

Since I do understand you're saving money by producing a CD instead of a pulp newspaper, I want to have access to the newspaper's online archives for my kids' school projects. I'd prefer unlimited access (like TIME magazine), but three times per paid month would be fine.

I'm willing to use a special code tied to my subscription to let you track who I am and which stories I read. Again, you can use this information to place your advertisers onto targeted archival stories.

This new form of news (the CD) also contains 30 minutes to one hour of the top stories in audio files read by professionals from a TV, radio or some new person hired specifically for this task. The audio files are from the front page, metro, business, sports and weather. I'll be able to listen to it during my morning exercises, on my way to work in the car or on the train. I could search forward and backward through the stories as they interest me.

It'll have a protective cardboard sleeve as not to scratch the CD. This sleeve identifies the newspaper issue, but it could also have a premium paid ad on the back.

I also want my coupons (particularly on Sunday). So, the normal inserts advertisements are in the plastic wrapper. Instead of a large paper-based newspaper, I get the CD, ad inserts and any free samples. It's easier for the delivery people to get it closer to my door since it is lighter. It also is much easier for them to have the inserts inside the bag and just pop the CD in there at the last moment. This should also help with last minute changes as news breaks.

Since we're on the subject of coupons, I want to be able to print the coupons of my choice from the day's paper. You might consider a PDF-format 8.5x11 sheets with all miniature coupons for me to print easily. But, I don't want to lose a single coupon (or anything else for that matter) by not getting the paper version of the newspaper. I should get extra instead of less.

I also want the same options for other languages since I'm learning Spanish/French/German/Arabic and hearing and reading the news (especially while I'm online and have access to an Internet translator) in Spanish helps me.

Since I'll probably be online while I read the newspaper, I want the CD to check for story updates. If any stories have changed, let me know.

I also want a button at the top of the browser to report news tips to the newspaper. I don't expect every tip to get total attention, but an automated "thanks for the note" e-mail response would be nice.

I'm willing to give very detailed information about myself and how to contact me to assist reporters and photographers as long as I think my ideas are heard. However, I only expect to hear from news people (not from advertisers) for this information.

If possible, I'd also like the CDs to be made from corn-based biodegradable resin. This is better for the ecosystem, helps farmers and sends less money to foreign oil-producing countries.

Also, I would like to have an additional MP3 of a local or national band (as well as information about the band) on some CDs -- Monday might be good. You could include it in your advertising as a special to improve your rack sales of the CD news. If this is seriously considered, my teenage children will beg for specific newspapers. It'll get them interested in the newspaper at an early age.

My teens also like video games. I know they'd like some freeware games. If it happened to look like they were reading the newspaper instead of playing computer games at school, it would get them in less trouble. Who knows, they might even read the paper after all.

Lastly, I doubt there's any room left on the CD, but if there is, you can put some TV-style ads on it or movie trailers. Since there is no downloading time, it'll play properly on my computer. I won't find it as annoying as when I'm surfing the Web because of the realistic speed.

I remember buying boxes of cereal to cut out imprinted record singles. This nostalgia alone makes me try the CD version of the newspaper.

Enough for now,


Ashok K Sharma said...


Mark M. Hancock said...

Thanks Ashok,
This post is from 2004. I've updated my thought from CD to podcasting. Also, new e-newspaper readers (due this spring) are about to make the industry interesting. If you'd like to see a newer version of these ideas, check out the nonprofit we're trying to create.