Habits can change fast. For decades, I would head for two things in the morning--a hot cup of tea and a bunch of newspapers. Nowadays, I wake up and head toward my computer (instead of the balcony) to read news online.
At one time, newspapers were the only source of news for much of India that didn't even possess a TV set. Radio was (and still is) for broadcasting film songs. But today, majority of people in India get their news through television.
In most developed economies, (tangible) newspapers are fast becoming history. Most people read news online. Though broadband penetration in India is still quite low, with only 4.3 million connections, the first few symptoms of the imminent death of newspapers are already visible.
My newspaper vendor is a case in point. Three years back, he knew us by the house that bought six newspapers every day. Soon, even he started experiencing high attrition rate, and we would see a different newspaper boy every morning. Then, his boys began to err. It became increasingly difficult for his (new) boys to remember which six newspapers we buy every day. Most of these newspaper boys earn their livelihood through other means--many of them are office boys, peons and drivers.
My guess is that the newspaper vendor, too, earns his bread-and-butter from elsewhere because when I reduced the number of newspapers we buy from six to two this year, he seemed okay with this drastic cut. It obviously made no difference to his revenues.
Since I get most of the news from the internet, I end up spending more time in front of my computer screen. While traveling, I also read news on my mobile phone, which can be quite cumbersome.
With India poised to experience new technologies like 3G and WiMAX, it should become easier to access the Internet on the mobile phone. In fact, the day is not far when even the illiterate will be able to access the Internet with the use of new technologies like the "Spoken Web".
As I see it, newspapers may become extinct within the next five to 10 years. But will we miss them? My father's generation will surely grumble if they don't get their copy. But, my generation will move on. In fact, it's wiser to be prepared. Start enjoying your morning tea without the broadsheet.