Can the e-reader save newspapers? The frenzy of news over the past few weeks about a slew of new electronic reader devices, many of which will hit the US market in coming months, has created an impression that the nightmare confronting newspapers and journalism could be resolved by replacement technology.

Yesterday, for example, The Australian editorialised that an e-reader “revolution is on offer”, which is “yet further proof of capitalism’s extraordinary resilience and creativity”.

Fine, but could e-readers save newspapers and quality journalism? In a word, no.

As we at Crikey have been banging on about for a couple of years, the dilemma that is upending the economics of quality newspapers — and therefore quality journalism — has been created by the demise of a century-old business model that is funded chiefly by advertising revenue. It’s all about advertisers, not readers, deserting newspapers because they have found more effective online media to reach their consumers.

So unless new technology devices can recapture the lost advertising revenue that is migrating from newspapers — which seems most unlikely — they will not produce the revenue that pays for quality journalism. Get it?

Peter Fray

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