Be it a city slicker or a small town simpleton, most of us receive our newspapers at our doorstep. Some young lad employed by the “newspaperwallah” cycles into your building compound or society or “gully” and hastily makes the rounds of all the neighborhood doors, smacking them with the requested daily. Now this young lad, bloke, simpleton, “chokra” obviously isn’t living his dream by running around every morning at the crack of dawn. But until he wins the lottery, this is his bread and butter.
But for how long? Economies rise, purchasing powers expand and standards of living improve across the populous. There will be a time when the ubiquitous “chokras” will be no more since they would have climbed up the socio-economic ladder and established themselves as bona-fide white collar employees. Who then will bring your daily dose of news at your doorstep? And if not delivered in the morning for your reading pleasure, where will you go to get that “reading material” for those early morning rituals? Think about it for a minute. How many of us are willing to go to the neighborhood newsstand just so that we can buy something which is already available to us for free (in a manner of speaking of course!) on a 24×7 basis.
Where is it available on a constant basis you ask? Well silly, through the electronic media of course! Yes that idiot box of yours has roughly about a a news channel in virtually every regional language of this country, the AIR (All India Radio), broadcasts news bulletin on a daily basis throughout various time slots in the day and the internet probably has a gazillion odd sites dedicated to reporting current affairs and breaking headlines. A new entrant in this list is the mobile phone. With GPRS, EDGE and 3G, a variety of news-related content is readily available for the average cell-phone user.
Television has been around for some decades now and we all have witnessed the power of moving images when it comes to news. How many cringed when they saw the towering landmarks of New York succumb to terrorist attacks and turn into dust? The war reports brought Kargil, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka to our living rooms. Watching Yuvraj Singh’s six-sixes over and over on every sports channels was electric! There is no denying the fact that television has revolutionized the way we perceive news.
Now consider the web for instance. type in news on google and you’ll get 26,000,000 results listing prominent names such as BBC, NDTV,CNN and also inane ones like Tundra, Sun and The Onion! But the fact remains that news sites are dime a dozen. Many sites focus on special segments of news, i.e. sport (http://www.cricinfo.com), weather (http://www.weather.com), finance (http://www.bloomberg.com), etc, offering a more in-depth and detailed analysis of the affairs.
Apart from the obvious contenders, the web also has it’s share of amateur reporters and paparazzi. Whiz through the status updates of your friends on twitter, facebook or orkut and you’re bound to come across some bit of local and international (depending on the reach of your friend-circle) news. Sports fans will let you know which football club won the previous night with great regale or whether the pole position was claimed by champion Hamilton or underdog Sutil. Financial pundits will keep twitting about the next big bull-run or at least the best performing stocks for the day. Even this year’s Central Government Election results were on facebook before they were in newsprint! The most compelling factor about the web as a source of news is its ability to be absolutely instantaneous! News from any part of the world is available at your fingertips (with web browsing phones that is a pretty literal statement!).
Now I know that most of you feel that all the technology in the world cannot replace “that” feel that a newspaper provides. Paradigm shifts are often met with such weak criticism. People said the same thing about digital watches when they were introduced in the analog era. But today, digital clocks are everywhere! Newspaper barons and conglomerates are aware that this shift is taking place slowly but surely. That is the reason why they have begun foraying into the digital media to capture the escaping demographic. Think of any major news daily and they are bound to have a presence on the web, mobile content and in many cases even the television and radio!
Let’s not forget, that a paperless medium is also beneficial to the environment. With seven trees being cut to make a sheet of paper, your gossip section alone is responsible for deforestation of small forests! So environmentalists would definitely be tooting for the online and other non-paper based media to ensure the survival of the environment.
Are you beginning to sense the next big wave? A few years (maybe 10, maybe 20, maybe more!) from now, newspapers will cease to be the de-facto source of your daily dose of current affairs. Coupled with factors such as a rising economy, abundance of content and reduction in charges, online and digital media will be the choice of millions across the nation and, of course, the world.
If you’ve been reading carefully (and I hope you have!), you’re probably wondering why did I even mention the little tid-bit about the newspaper-boy. How does that fit into this piece about the phasing out of newspapers? Especially when other compelling factors have been presented simultaneously. Simple, because that is the one factor which will ultimately cause the shift in our country. History is witness to the laid back approach that most of our nation prides itself upon. Unless, the balance of things is not upset, when it comes to our convenience and comfort, we do not tend to take things seriously. In the absence of that “somebody”, who does the work, we feel the pinch and it is only then that we wake up and smell the coffee! So i don’t foresee any amount of technology, availability or resources causing our chai drinking and newspaper reading nation to evolve and explore new options. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a generalization but an observation of the attitudes of many old-timers. The younger generation is willing to indulge their senses, try different ideas and accept new paradigms. They will be leading this shift voluntarily; the others would be joining the band-wagon out of compulsion.
For the time being, your daily “akhbaar” is safe and you can indulge in your “garam chai and tez khabar” routine. But remember, “Nothing is permanent but change!”