Ten years from now, will you still have a traditional Deseret News delivered to your home? Or will you obtain your news electronically - via telephone or satellite - into your TV set or personal computer?
Those are questions I wish I could answer. Technology is changing so rapidly that no one knows what the future will bring. But one thing is certain - newspaper people all over the country are a little nervous.Already, numerous electronic news services exist. They haven't been much competition - yet - to newspapers because most are still rather inconvenient and expensive. Who wants to be tied to a one-eyed computer monster for in-depth reading of the news when you can take your friendly newspaper to the bathroom, bedroom or out on the patio?
A newspaper is cheerfully convenient, and the electronic services can't yet match our ease of presentation, color and excellent graphics.
But that, too, may change. The merging of digital technology and fiber optics may mean all sorts of electronic hardware can be tied into an integrated circuit. One day you may be able to program your computer and built-in telephone modem before going to work or going to bed and have the latest news, in quantities and categories you want, waiting for you whenever you want it, printed out in beautiful fashion on your four-color, high-speed laser printer.
We're a long way from that, thank goodness. And such systems are likely to be expensive.
But it's clear that newspapers must adapt and reposition to keep up with technology and societal changes or we'll go the way of the railroads and the full-service gas stations.
The futuristic thinkers in the newspaper industry believe that in 10 years newspapers will still be around (at least most of them), but the product will be changed. You'll find more color, more quick-read features, more graphics and more reader helps.
And here's something you'll like: Choices. A newspaper custom-made just for you. You'll subscribe to one basic, fairly thin, graphically attractive section containing a comprehensive overview of all the news in brief, tightly written stories. Beyond that, it'll be up to you.
If you're highly interested in foreign news, you will order a section full of in-depth stories on world events and issues. Interested in politics and Washington, D.C.? You'll have a section delivered full of that type of news.
The sports junkies will want an in-depth sports section with lots of sports agate. There may be sections for home and garden; family and education; technology, science and fitness; state and local news; neighborhood and community news; participation sports; fishing and hunting; general business news; personal finance - and whatever else the market demands.
This, to some extent, will be market-driven journalism. If a section isn't generating enough orders, it will be dropped. Advertisers will be able to target their messages to select audiences.
That is likely the newspaper of the future. Consumers want choices today, and newspapers must adapt.