Will Tablets Ring the Death Knell for Newspapers?

A survey reveals that 42% of US tablet owners will cancel their print newspaper subscription. Tablets devices are said to be on pace to become ubiquitous, mass-market, consumer product faster than any-other previously released, technological device.

The implications of this rapid adoption on publication paper markets is the subject of a new study The Impact of Media Tablets on Publication Paper Markets, published by RISI, a leading information provider for the global forest products industry. It was announced today, August 22.

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The market for media tablets – consisting of tablet computers (including Apple’s iPad) and electronic readers (including Amazon’s Kindle) – exploded in 2010.

By the end of the first year of availability, over 15 million tablet computers were in use. In North America alone, the size of the electronic reader market almost doubled, with over 10 million in use.

Early-on, according to RISI, signs of trouble for the publication paper market became clear, as: 

  • In 2010, the top free app in Apple’s iTunes store was iBooks
  • A Morgan Stanley inquiry discovered that 42% of US tablet owners will cancel their print newspaper subscription
  • In May of this year, Amazon.com announced that ebook sales now exceed those of printed book sales in the U.S.
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“Many graphic paper producers make their living selling paper to the publishing industry, those companies will be greatly affected by media tablets,” explains John Maine, RISI’s VP (World Graphic Paper) and study team leader. “Significant demand impacts could come as soon as 2012.”

The Impact of Media Tablets on Publication Paper Markets [ http://www.risi.com/media ] finds that by 2015, most publishing paper end uses in North America, such as magazine, newspaper and book publishing, will fall 12-21% compared to their 2010 levels.

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This is on top of the massive collapse that occurred during the recent recession. Paper use in North American books, magazines and newspapers could see another 40-50% fall over the next 15 years.

Market declines are also anticipated in Europe, especially for printed newspapers, but the percentage losses in the Western European market will be somewhat less than North America because of a reduced rate of media tablet adoption and fragmented media markets.

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The study forecasts the decline by grade and end-use in the publication paper market over the next five, ten and fifteen years, analyzing the effects of e-readers and tablet computers on the North American and Western European markets.

The forecast covers three scenarios: a base case, strong impact case (with quicker diffusion of tablets to the mass market) and a weak impact scenario.

Graph courtesy: RISI

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Rakesh Raman