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Turned on to digital

We begin this Editorial with a confession: To some who read what follows it may seem in part to be self serving, but we ask you to see the larger picture.

Over the past 24 hours, one of the world’s best known publications, Newsweek announced that its final printed edition will be on December 31 this year, ending an almost 80-year history of serving the United States and the world with an “A” class magazine.

Well, sort of. The owners of Newsweek have disclosed that the publication is going totally digital — readers will only be able to access it in an electronic format. Subscribers will now simply log onto the Internet and download each edition.

Newsweek is taking the same route Barbados TODAY took in January 2010, a move that could save the institution from financial ruin, given the two mountains that many producers of printed publications face every time they seek to put an edition on the road — high newsprint cost and declining advertising sales.

While Barbados TODAY is free to its readers, those who want to read Newsweek will have to pay. And while no word has been given on the payment structure that the magazine’s owners will use, it would be reasonable to conclude it will be cheaper to acquire an e-edition that it is to purchase a hard copy. After all, the production costs and considerably less.

But this is an issue that’s much larger than Newsweek going digital. The whole world is going digital — that is, the world of consumers. While there is still a strong emotional attachment by some consumers to having their daily newspaper in their hands in paper form, a growing number of persons are recognising the utility of receiving their news — and so much more — electronically.

When your political leaders speak, you don’t just have the writer’s summary of what was said, but the digital format can allow you to see “in living colour” — and in real time even — what transpired. The convenience of receiving your news wherever you are, whenever you want it makes all the difference to a growing number of consumers.

Never mind what others choose to publish, in the case of Barbados TODAY, that portability of news is turning out to be key to our readers. Each day just short of 20,000 persons read this publication using smart phones and tablet devices such as the iPad, Kindle and Samsung Galaxy. (This figure does not include “regular” computers).

Newsweek’s announcement explained that a major part of their thrust will be toward the tablet market.

In as much as this article is not about Newsweek, it is not about Barbados TODAY, but about our decision makers and key stakeholders recognising that it is critical that our people be properly prepared for the new ITC world. We will either swim with it and gather maximum benefit, or get swept along and hope to survive.

For sure, our education leaders need to decide whether their archaic/conservative approach to banning phones in schools is the most sensible, or whether it is in the country’s interest to fully embrace the technology, with appropriate rules, and join in the creation of a true digital community.

Overall, not just in schools, we need ensure we are setting up the framework for leadership and not just to be followers.

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