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Newspapers obsolete in 12 years

Internet specialist Dr Jeffrey Cole says no newspapers in Qatar in 12-13 years

Newspapers obsolete in 12 years
Newspapers are likely to switch to online only says Cole.

Newspapers in Qatar will cease printing in 12 to 13 years, according to Dr Jeffrey Cole, director for the Centre for the Digital Future and expert in internet use and broadband technology. Cole was speaking at a public discussion held by Northwestern University in Qatar on Monday evening.

"We know that when internet penetration reaches 30%, printed newspaper sales decline.  People start going to the internet to get their news," said Cole. "The saddest truth for newspapers, and a trend that we've seen for the past 11 years, is that every time a newspaper reader dies, they are not being replaced by a new reader."

Despite his predictions for the end of physical copies of newspapers, he is still optimistic for their outlook.

"No mass media ever disappears, it changes, it adapts," said Cole. "Radio didn't roll over and die when television came along, it adapted and changed and today radio is a vibrant and important medium for music and information. Likewise, as we look at all of our mass media today, I believe that most will indeed survive, just as smaller players."

He said that newspapers are likely to turn more towards the internet and turning news digital. According to Cole, two thirds of a big city newspaper budget goes to printing and distribution - costs that will be unnecessary with a full move to digital publication. Digital distribution is also more environmentally friendly and with the cuts in costs newspapers may be able to hire more writers and pay them higher salaries.

"Newspapers and magazines are in trouble with print, but they have a better future digitally. If they do nothing more than move their content from paper to a screen, they've already won," said Cole. "Digital media will help newspapers and magazines attract more readers and provide them new and different ways to interact with those readers."

Cole's observations on the decline of printed news are the result of over ten years of studying people's use of the internet and broadband technologies. Cole has been at the forefront of media and communication technology policy for more than 20 years and runs the World Internet Project, which studies the impact of the internet in more than 25 countries around the world.

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