Ian Burrell: The last post has been sounded in Liverpool, but elsewhere print media is finding its voice again

The wise knew the demise would be slow. Bill Gates gave newspapers another 50 years

On Christmas Eve, until very recently, the national newspaper newsroom was a place of silence – as disconnected from the seasonal excitement of the outside world as that bear’s cave in the John Lewis advert. The press was traditionally forced into a brief period of hibernation by the knowledge that no newsagents would be open on Christmas Day to sell its publications.

Not any longer, of course. Christmas Eve is just another news day when readers expect their favourite papers to be continually updating websites, apps and Twitter accounts. Thanks to the internet, the Christmas holiday arrangements of printers, lorry drivers and paper boys and girls are an irrelevance.

But that’s no reason for newspaper proprietors to be raising their wine glasses in toasts of thanks. Now they must staff the newsroom throughout the Christmas period, while suffering a loss of revenue from print editions, which remain the core sources of income for all major titles. Yes, here we are on the verge of 2014 and print is still bringing in most of the money.

The wisest of sages had always known that the death of print would be a slow process. When I interviewed Bill Gates in New York in March 2006 he was extremely cautious in writing off the old medium, even at a time when the soothsayers of Silicon Valley were predicting the immediate demise of the press. “I’m sure it will be more than 50 years when somebody is still printing a newspaper and taking it to someone, somewhere,” he said.

He was making this observation in full knowledge that prototype portable tablets were at that moment being developed in the labs. “The tablet is the place where it can all come together,” he told me. “I see the person with that very, very thin – we don’t have it yet today – very inexpensive, high bandwidth, wireless device… where a lot of the print and video consumption will take place.” It was almost exactly four years later that the Apple iPad made its debut.

This Christmas there will inevitably be another surge in tablet ownership, with the lightweight iPad Air and Microsoft’s own Surface 2 driving sales. But there is a growing realisation that these devices are not in themselves the salvation of the commercial news industry that some expected. Most of those downloading newspaper apps are simply traditional print newspaper buyers who are adapting their reading habits to modern technology. Many younger readers see no more reason to pay for a news app than for a printed paper – and prefer to discover stories via social media sources.

The parlous position of news brands remains. Especially so in the UK where the BBC’s prodigious output of high-quality written journalism continues to undermine the commercial market (I don’t accept the BBC’s claim that the global demise of print media shows that this is not a BBC issue).

The final publication of the Liverpool Post last week, illustrated with two buglers sounding the “Last Post” farewell against a silhouette of the Liver Building, was a poignant signal of the future fate of other British news institutions. This was the most high-profile casualty from the digital revolution and, in a moving elegy, editor Mark Thomas reflected on how the paper’s first edition covered the assault on Sevastopol in the Crimean War, 158 years ago.

This has also been the year when Lloyd’s List, the world’s oldest continuously published newspaper, abandoned print – a 280-year old tradition that began with notices being pinned to the walls of London coffee houses. While Lloyd’s List will continue to report the global shipping market in digital formats, I have a strong feeling that 2014 will be far bloodier than 2013 in terms of traditional news media closures.

And yet, as Bill Gates suggested, there is resilience in the print medium. It’s not just the continued demand for the format in markets such as India – which continues to attract the interest of British-based publishers with global ambitions. There is also a hunger for print in unlikely sources, which are giving the medium a new cachet.

The geeks of Silicon Roundabout (London’s digital tech hub) have launched Tech City News, a new print magazine with an initial run of 10,000 copies. “Paper is the new second screen,” declares editor Alex Wood, who claims the format allows readers to “unplug, sit back and relax”. Pitchfork, the favourite online music resource of hipsters, has also moved belatedly into ink. Meanwhile The Guardian, previously the most vocal digital evangelist among British newspapers, has recently shown renewed sympathy for its physical product and is experimenting with a new 24-page tabloid of “long good reads” distributed via its trendy East London coffee shop.

Print still has a future in 2014 but only in a symbiotic relationship with a digital product – and only if the publisher offers premium content.

When  creatives turn to art

One of the real eccentric creatives of British advertising, Graham Fink, is going into the art world – but not as a collector like Charles Saatchi.

“Finky”, who once landed a job by turning up at the interview disguised as a very old man and who is best known for the British Airways “Face” campaign and slogans such as “Ariston and on”, is showing his own art in an exhibition, which opens on 9 January at the Riflemaker gallery in London’s Beak Street.

It’s called Nomads, which seems a suitable title for someone who flies around Asia as the chief creative officer for Ogilvy China (a role he will retain). The exhibition features 12 photographs printed onto “the purest whitest marble on earth”, taken from the quarries on the Greek island of Paros which provided the raw material for the Venus de Milo statue.

“I am very excited about following in the footsteps of Andy Warhol and making the crossover from advertising into art,” says the former creative chief of M&C Saatchi.

It’s a washout for England’s cricket pundits

As England’s cricketers prepare to defend their honour in the Melbourne test, many of the tour party will be wondering whether their careers can escape the media backlash over losing the Ashes.

But how many pundits will be offering up their resignations after a hopeless failure to predict the Australian resurgence?

Let’s remind ourselves that Sky’s Nasser Hussain went for 3-1 to England, as did David Gower, “Bumble” Lloyd called it 2-0 to Alastair Cook’s team, while Mike Atherton and Bob Willis both said 2-1 to England. Inevitably, “Beefy” Botham predicted a 5-0 England whitewash.

Telegraph analyst  Simon Hughes went for 3-1 England, and The Guardian’s Mike Selvey said England would narrowly retain the Ashes.

Twitter: @iburrell

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
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

Ad Director / Sales Director

£55 - 65k + 25% Y1 OTE + Fantastic Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an e...

Outbound Telesales Executives - B2B

£18,000 - £22,000: Recruitment Genius: A number of exciting opportunities have...

Head of Ad Sales - UK Broadcast

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: An award-winning global mul...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel your sales role is l...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London