Mark Challinor on the Future of Newspapers and the Rise of the Connected Device

Wherever the eyeballs go, the money goes too. And right now our eyeballs are now glued to mobile and tablet devices, which are bringing about massive changes in the daily lives of consumers.

But newspapers aren’t quite up to speed with the changing needs of the consumer and the platforms they are using, says Mark Challinor (pictured right), a digital consultant specializing in the mobile arena and Vice-President of the International News Media Association (INMA). The U.K.-based digital expert kicked off the opening keynote at this year’s INK + BEYOND newspaper conference in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

It’s time for newspapers to catch up. “We need to understand the environment we are working in,” says Challinor, adding newspapers remain stuck on print and digital and have yet to harness the vast opportunities in mobile devices, a platform boasting double-digit growth in revenue.

With the advent of Google Glass and other wearable technologies, newspapers and advertisers need to soon figure out how to capitalize on these technological developments to keep their audiences engaged, if they want to stay afloat. While newspapers and advertisers don’t yet know the best uses of these technologies, Challinor acknowledges they are starting to “wake up” to the opportunities within the mobile arena, with more case studies and metrics now available.

Rightly so, he says, as mobile devices are becoming increasingly affordable with technology driving down distribution costs so there is better access for everyone. He cites one study that suggests over half of the world will be connected to a mobile device by 2020, with a third having Internet access on a mobile device.

Couple this with the media facing a challenging future based on 2017 predictions and even an expiry date for some magazines and metros, and there’s another reason why newspapers need to seek out new opportunities on other platforms.

But Challinor reminds us content always reigns as king, and that needs to remain a priority for newspapers and advertisers, regardless of the platform.

“What newspapers need to do and need to do more of is produce valuable content, target audiences using data and then package that content…that ultimately forms the future of quality journalism,” he says, adding newspapers already have the advantage telling good stories.

“No matter what the technology that’s been invented, no matter what value it claims to deliver, if it can’t impact another and it’s not a well told story, its value will diminish,” he continues.

The best approach says Challinor, is to read publications and be surrounded by creative individuals within an organization who are experimenting with new ideas. He cites examples of wafer thin embedded videos starting to appear in U.K. magazines, double-page extending ads in China and 3D newspapers in Germany.

In summary, Challinor says newsrooms and advertisers should strive to provide “less water” or content that can be found anywhere and given away for free and instead provide “more champagne” which is content that can be delivered at a premium price. In other words, give the consumers what they want.