Bill Hagerty on the press

The future is read, but not necessarily in newspapers

The compact war of words continues. Journalists themselves are obsessed with the merits and otherwise of big and small.
The Guardian is taking the middle road at considerable expense, while
The Daily Telegraph waits anxiously to see if the Barclay Brothers believe that size does matter after all. And now some long-term readers of
The Times are apparently so horrified by their paper's decision to publish only in compact form that they may seriously be considering one-way trips to Beachy Head.

The compact war of words continues. Journalists themselves are obsessed with the merits and otherwise of big and small. The Guardian is taking the middle road at considerable expense, while The Daily Telegraph waits anxiously to see if the Barclay Brothers believe that size does matter after all. And now some long-term readers of The Times are apparently so horrified by their paper's decision to publish only in compact form that they may seriously be considering one-way trips to Beachy Head.

What a to-do. But, without wishing further to depress print journalists and disgruntled readers of the scaled-down Times, I must point out that it could have been worse. What if The Times, and The Independent come to that - after all, the most radical development in the industry since the introduction of colour started here - were to dispense with paper altogether? What if the incredible shrinking newspaper shrank totally out of sight?

Fanciful? Not according to experienced newspapermen such as Arthur Sulzberger Jr, publisher of The New York Times, who recently told me: "It is the print edition of The Times that is the driving force at the moment, but we can envisage it vanishing - one day there were tablets and the next day there weren't."

So farewell, compact, and welcome to the web, where NYTimes.com is the world's leading and most profitable newspaper site. Unlike those in this country so far, it makes a great deal of money out of advertising and charging for information; the Times' electronic edition, an exact reproduction of the day's paper, can be downloaded to computers worldwide at 4.30am US Eastern time.

The Americans may be ahead of the game, but there are plenty here who believe they have seen the future and know that it works. Andrew Gowers, editor of the Financial Times, says that he doesn't care whether readers get his paper in print or online and that the web is now an integral part of the FT editorial operation. The Guardian's Alan Rusbridger believes that "if I had to be judged by one thing, it would be the internet and how we have ... extended our global reach and laid down our future positioning".

The Daily Mail, arriving late at a party where this newspaper and others had already cut themselves a slice of the cake, is pouring resources into the web and the company's enthusiasm has washed way beyond the confines of Kensington. In a recent speech, Keith Perch, managing director of Northcliffe Electronic Publishing, reported that a survey had shown that 33 per cent of those getting their Associated news fix from the web never look at one of the company's newspapers. His bullish view was justified by the knowledge that his operation had gone from costing £12m a year into modest profit in just four years.

The road to electronic Mount Olympus will be strewn with obstacles and - echoes of accusations about "tabloidisation" - will need to be negotiated especially carefully if journalistic standards are to be maintained. But even if many of us will run out before the road does, it will eventually, irrevocably lead to the absolutely paper-free paper. As the wise Mr Sulzberger, who would print the news on T-shirts if there were a demand, says: "That we do it on paper is great as long as people care for it on paper. But the minute they don't, well that's all right too."

The end of the Odone player

Those suffering from election fatigue have at least been able to find a pick-me-up in the shape of the knockabout goings-on at our two most prominent political weeklies. No sooner had Boris Johnson paid penance for a Spectator editorial that upset sensitive souls in Liverpool than the New Statesman donned red nose and funny hat to provide more media light relief.

The resignation of deputy editor Cristina Odone was accompanied by tales of a spat with Statesman editor Peter Wilby over an NS cover depicting Tony Blair as Stalin. Wilby refuted this in a spirited leading article that promised it was giving readers "the unvarnished truth".

Meanwhile, a fresh rumour of an imminent change of NS editor circulated like rushing blood. Previously gossip had suggested that the political editor, John Kampfner, was driving a removal van up and down outside Wilby's office; now former foreign secretary Robin Cook was tipped to take over.

Wilby, a philosophical fellow not given proper credit for producing a constantly combative NS despite severe budgetary restrictions, takes it all with aplomb. He says he's had no indication that chairman Geoffrey Robinson is about to remove him, but adds, "If he was approaching other people, I don't suppose he'd tell me."

My unvarnished opinion is that Robinson would be foolish to join the long list of proprietors that believed a change of editor would provide an instant panacea for their publication's ills.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Brand Marketing Manager - Essex - £45,000 + £5000 car allowance

£40000 - £45000 per annum + car allowance: Ashdown Group: Senior Brand Manager...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer /.NET Software Developer

£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer /.NET Software ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

Guru Careers: Technical Operations Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical Ope...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect