I received this response from John Farquhar after I emailed him about Duncan McLeod in Financial Mail’s column Newspapers R.I.P.
Thanks for the link to Mcleods column There are two kind of people in business. Those who live in the real world and those who fantasise about tomorrow’s where the old will be replaced by the new. As a Sci-Fi fan I was always fascinated by the gadgets the writers dreamt up, and looking back many of their imaginary gadgets have become reality. While there is nothing wrong about speculating about the future one must also balance it with realism. The problem with Mcleod thinking is that he is fascinated by the technological advances of more advanced societies and sees them taking over the world. But the technological train he spots in the distance may pass our society or take a long time getting here. While I keep myself informed of technological developments abroad I am also a realist when it comes to their application in this country. Much of the technological development that is happening in the U.S. and Europe will take an awful long time for it to be replicated in South Africa to the same depth. Sure there will be niche groups that have that hankering to be seen to be up to speed with their peers in the U.S. and will sport the latest gadgets but they are few. For the majority all this technology is fantasy. To make a statement that technology with replace print is stretching the envelope somewhat. Reading long screeds on the Web is physically tiring. It is far easier and more relaxing to read a book. If you are a news nut and wanting to keep your fingers on the pulse of what is happening out there, then technology is a must because it will give you the headlines. Your cellphone for example would be ideal. But if you want the in-depth story reading it on your cellphone or the web to put it bluntly is a pain in the arse. It is more conducive to read it in the print format. But there very few information nuts out there who get withdrawal systems if they don’t get the news the minute it happens.
Ordinary folk don’t think that way. They are not instant news nuts. If you are one never judge the populace by your behaviour.
Now what is the reality of South Africa. We have a small group of people who have a complex about being on a par with their peers abroad and make a point of being up there with the latest. The majority in our population don’t think beyond their neighbourhood. They have radios and TV and listen to the news, but if their interest is to get the full story they will get it from print.
You must not judge behaviour by the youth. New gadgets fascinate them. Cellphone chatter and sms for example. But this falls away when they move into the adult world where they have to work to make a living, and their free time is limited. For the Internet to have the same impact it has in the U.S. and Europe where household penetration has passed 50% it will have to get to the same level here. Once again judging the South African population and social structure I will venture to say that it is a long long way off. Mcleod was writing for the Financial Mail’s audience which incidentally is very small. The magazine only sells 35 000 copies an issue. Technology is important to these people because they are traders when ‘Now’ information is important to their business. But for him say that paper is doomed is nonsense. The average company consumes forests of paper in the business. Why because the working class uses paper. It is only the executives who have the gadgets. One must view technology in its proper perspective and in relation to the society you are talking About. South Africa is a long way off a paperless society. For your information that latest sales figures for magazines in the U.S. show increases.