13 September 2006

Free media?

Yesterday's Crikey referred to an article by
Richard Addis in The Guardian (UK) which ponders whether in 10 years' time all newspapers will be free. It's worth reading the whole piece for yourself, as it includes some rough calculations of costs and benefits. Addis suggests that the freebies are but a step on the road to fully online papers.

In Australia the free newspaper (many of them owned by News Ltd) has long been a feature of the suburban lawnscape, though it's not quite like London situation where the free papers have been used as bait to entice readers to fork out for a bulkier edition later the same day.

The costs of printing and distributing newspapers throughout our dispersed suburbs must be huge, and while a lot of people, including me, like to be able to hold something in their hand (if only to do the crossword puzzle or to have something to read on the bus) it may be that we can be weaned away from our reliance on print. After all I read bits and pieces of many papers on the web already.

Here in Adelaide both The Advertiser and The Independent Weekly have a free daily email each weekday which are sent out within minutes of each other to anyone who requests them. This competition doesn't guarantee that they'll report all the local news that's fit to email: yesterday neither reported the latest rumours about Mitsubishi, but it may be another indication of the way the wind is shifting.

That said, I think the home delivered newspaper will be with us for a while yet: perhaps even longer than 10 years. On my recent trip up north I was surprised that the weekday Australian costs $3.00 in Darwin and $2.20 in Alice Springs (and is not available at newsagencies in each place until the afternoon) . There are obviously people who are prepared to pay these prices and wear the delays (which can be even longer in more remote areas). Even so I'm surprised that a full text internet version isn't more widely promoted in those places: or perhaps it is and the tradition of the morning (or morning after) newspaper is still alive and well.

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