First, Craigslist literally destroyed classified ads by offering free, local classified ads in most major cities around the world. Wham! Overnight, the lucrative classified advertising departments of most newspapers were put out of business. "Check Craigslist" has become a thread of basic, accepted behavior when looking to find something most typically found in classified ads.
Then, basic distribution and advertising in daily newspapers came under assault with free Websites that offered much less expensive (lower revenue) online advertising. But newspapers kept producing their print editions since they still generated a lot of revenue.
Now, with the iPad just a few months old and an onslaught of tablets hitting the market in the next six months, you'd expect that at least one major newspaper publisher would likely reorganize itself to adapt to the new world of digital publishing on tablets. In fact, two have just made such an announcement.
On Friday, Aug. 27, 2010, USA TODAY announced it was reorganizing to focus on digital publishing-primarily on tablets-and "defocus" on print. And on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010, the New York Times announced that they "will stop printing the New York Times sometime in the future, date TBD." These are just the first of a whole series of similar announcements that I expect we'll see over the next couple of years.
Make no mistake here: digital publishing, primarily through tablets, is going to sweep through the entire publishing industry. There's no going back as in, "Oh, we tried digital publishing on tablets and it didn't work out. We're going back into print publishing. It was all just a fad." That is never going to happen.
I actually like reading a newspaper. It's good to hold it in your hand and flip from page to page. There's a tactile feedback, and your eyes can view material that is often 20 inches high and 30 inches wide. You can snack on one headline after another and then deep dive on stuff that you find interesting. I keep thinking, "Nah, they'll never stop producing newspapers." But now, with the USA TODAY announcement, I think, during our lifetimes, we'll be seeing the death of an industry that is hundreds of years old.