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Friday, March 20, 2009

After newspapers die, regional TV and radio next + possible plan for newspapers

Lots of gloom and doom these days around the newspaper industry. Here's a bit more gloom and doom for regional TV and radio.

I think we will see the death of regional TV networks soon, with probably a destabilization of the big three TV networks into a new model. I think regional radio will last a bit longer, just because most TV is consumed in the home whereas radio is consumed while mobile. Centralized broadband into the home will hasten the crumbling of regional TV, whereas the cellular networks can't stream digital radio well currently. However, the recent rapid acceleration of advanced smartphones like the iPhone, Android, etc. are accelerating the growth, speed, and general affordability of cellular data networks, making regional radio probably the third thing that will fall. As soon as we see cars that have digital radio receivers that tap into the Internet we will know the end is nigh on that front. I would expect to see them show up in high-end cars first, like the Lexus.

Here's one thing the big newspapers can do (I don't think regional TV or radio can do anything -- I think they are doomed, though they have probably 5 to 8 years):

1) Attempt to accelerate the commoditization and availability of magazine sized, full-color eInk displays. These are rapidly entering the marketplace, but color displays are probably 5 to 8 years out. If you can get the price of color down faster with a Manhattan style project, this could give you a platform necessary for high-quality ads. The tricky thing is you need to drive mass commoditization in the next 3 years, as that seems like the timeline for newspapers these days unfortunately.
2) As I mentioned above, digital cellular networks/Wifi are already falling in price pretty fast. Help spur this trend along; I predict that in 3 years digital data plans will be mainstream and quite fast.
3) The most important part: have a common billing platform and device subsidization program so that users can subscribe to newspapers on the eink devices without having to have many of them.

In all likelihood the cellular carriers themselves would become that common billing platform, doling out devices such as these. However, the carriers are kinda dinosaurs when it comes to innovations around these things unfortunately, so it will probably either be Apple or Amazon that becomes that common billing platform + device manufacturer. If only a consortium of newspapers could have made it to that point sooner...


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