Have I touched the future?

I have not only seen the future, I think I’ve touched it.

On Wednesday, media mogul Rupert Murdoch (the guy behind the New York Post, Wall Street Journal and, err, Fox News) unveiled the first “newspaper” built from the ground up for the iPad – The Daily. I downloaded it immediately of course, and spent the next half-hour or so flipping through its glossy pages, tapping and twirling its images and generally being wowed by its glorious ... multimedianess.

Come to think of it, I didn’t spend all that much time reading it. While there were a few, more traditional “long-form” hard news stories, a lot of The Daily’s content was short and snappy – perfect, really, for the iPad user who’s accustomed to getting what he wants quickly and, well, prettily.

That said, I don’t think The Daily, based on the first two issues anyway, is all form over function. But it is, let’s face it, the form that grabs you. And in this day and age, I’m not quite sure how much longer this big ol’ piece of flimsy paper is going to grab you.

No, I’m not one of those nay-sayers who does nothing but predict doom and gloom for the journalistic profession. On the contrary, I firmly believe that the public will always turned to a trusted news source to get the “real” story. The trained eye (and ear) of a professional journalist will always have more credibility than anyone old Tom, Dick or Harry with an Internet connection.

But the newspaper business in particular? Yikes, I don’t know. For the last few years, I’ve been saying to anyone who will listen that I was confident that I’d retire (in 2033, according to my 401k statement) with a printed edition of The Evening Sun on my desk that day. Now, I’m not so sure. The digital age has come at us so fast and so overwhelmingly that I think newspapers are destined to take on an entirely different form in the future.

Don’t worry, we’re not closing down Sun Printing just yet. These trends, thankfully, I suppose, take a long time to trickle down to places like Norwich. How many of you even have an iPad, anyway? I’m confident we have many strong years left here of success in print publications. But another 23? Maybe, maybe not.

When I started in this business in 1990, we didn’t have a website, or email or even cell phones. The fax machine was new-fangled technology, kept under lock and key in the general manager’s office and only used for “important” purposes. We had a “composing room” over on Hale Street that kept five people on the payroll cutting and pasting, physically “building” the newspaper. Today I do that all myself, with a few well-placed clicks. Needless to say, times have changed.

I think we’ve been pretty good here at The Evening Sun at changing with the times. We were one of the first, and the smallest, newspapers to even have a website. We jumped into the digital age head-first, making investments in the latest technology and being early adopters of popular trends like Facebook and Twitter. And that’s why, in the shadow of monumental efforts like News Corp.’s The Daily, we’re beginning to think of ourselves less as a newspaper, and more as an information services provider. New tools give us new ways to tell stories, is how I look at it. The opportunities are boundless.

The print edition isn’t going anywhere, for now anyway. It works. It’s familiar, and it’s trusted – and you’re still buying it a lot. But more and more, our efforts will be focused on growing and cultivating our digital presence – through the website of course, but also through social media, push notifications, dedicated apps – you name it, we’ll try it. In this business, it’s adapt or die.

“May you live in interesting times,” says the old Chinese proverb. I’ll say. It’s exciting to think where we might be in another 20 years. I know I’ll be keeping a close eye on Mr. Murdoch’s subscription model for producing trusted news content in the 21st century. No matter what form we might take, I’m confident that we’ll always be here – as we have since 1891 – bringing you the best in local news, sports and entertainment, as Chenango County’s Hometown Daily.

Even if we have to beam it directly to a chip implanted in your cerebral cortex. Next year, maybe.

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunjeff.

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