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Extra! Extra! Read all about how Europeans are dumpin’ the newspapers for the ‘Net!

To some, the daily newspaper is an institution. A bastion of commentary and the dissemination of free speech in print form. To others, an anachronism and others still, food wrapping and then landfill. And to us Europeans, the newspaper is yesterday’s news.

I never get a chance to fill out the daily crossword, or the latest SuDoku, but while letters are somewhat of a fascination, numbers are my blind-spot, if you like.

With my dad, the newspaper is often clutched in hand while he walks around the house, looking for his favourite pen, or at least the one that works usually qualifies as being favourite. To my dad, the newspaper is his hands-on window into the world through which he gets to see things rendered both clear and coloured. What with news brought to him as-is, to opinion pages and fervent columns filled with the usual journalistic predisposition for false dilemmas and high drama.

Each day, we will discuss at least one item from the newspaper. Usually, in a heated but equally usually agreeing tone. Put simply, the daily newspaper is the cornerstone of my dads daily intake of current affairs, news, views, sport, televisual stimulation and comic strip fun.

But it would appear that times are changing and old habits that once seemed destined to die hard are dyeing quickly:

“The Internet has overtaken newspapers and magazines as Europeans’ main source of news and feature-type information, according to a new study.

On average, Europeans spend an average of four hours per week online, compared to three hours reading newspapers and magazines, it added. In 2003 they spent only two hours a week online.”

But what’s driving this change?

“The main factors affecting Internet use are age and broadband access, … So for example France, which has the highest rates of broadband household access, also registers the highest average hours spent online whereas Germany ranks lowest in both cases.
But Germany has the highest weekly TV consumption time at 14 hours due to widespread availability of free-to-air multi-channel TV. The lowest consumption rate can be found in Italy, Spain and Sweden.”

So while this summary of figures can’t be relied upon for any broad-sweeping candidate for evidence, what we can infer is that where television is the more dominant medium, newspapers remain the bastion of news delivery to those doorsteps abroad.

People with a broadband internet connection and a computer sat in a good spot in the house will learn to make good use of the power of the ‘Net. What with up-to-the-minute updates, video feeds and live coverage, it’s not hard to see how the newspaper as a medium would quickly fall out of favour in some homes.

This kind of news is not exactly news to me as such. This to me is an inevitability and another step towards a particular point of convergence that may be closer than you think, which I’ve talked about recently. And if my predictions were to become true, the newspaper may well die one death only to be reborn.

What surprises me is the scant coverage given to this news. But then again, news of how new news is no longer old news isn’t news at all, now is it?

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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