Rupert Murdoch: The future of newspapers is all digital

Rupert Murdoch believes newspapers will continue to exists on paper for about 20 more years with declining circulation, and then eventually become completely electronic. Personally, I think it will accelerate a lot faster than that.

He made his comments about the future of journalism while giving testimony during a British inquiry on media ethics. The New York Times Jennifer Preston does an excellent job summarizing his take on what’s next:

The effect of “enormously disruptive technologies” on the traditional print model, he said, present the challenge of turning them into opportunities. For that, he sees the future in smartphones and tablet computer.

“We’re spending a lot of money trying to — and succeeding in — presenting every word of our newspapers on modern tablets,” he said. “I would be very confident in saying, in less than five years, there will be billions of tablets in the world. Furthermore, I think there will be more billions, maybe twice as many, of what we call smart telephones.”

As an example, he said he company employed many people working to make newspapers attractive on the tablet.

He cited The Wall Street Journal. “Every single word of The Wall Street Journal is a challenge to get through,” he said. “It’s there every day. But we add more photographs, which are of extraordinary quality on the iPad and will get better.”

He also said that he had concerns about the quality of content in a digital-only world:

Mr. Murdoch expressed particular concern for the fate of smaller newspapers, saying that they had a “great history of contribution to our democracy, and I think it will be a sad day if the major ones, if all of them, disappear.”

He said he thought that the online expansion of the “taxpayer-funded” BBC was making it more difficult for smaller newspapers in Britain to survive.

And, while he said the Internet was a tremendous source of information, he does not think it adds to the “diversity of information.” He pointed to The Huffington Post, which he said has grown by “mainly just stealing stories from existing newspapers”