If you think you’ll read the newspaper on your mobile phone or tablet for much longer, think again: The news of the future will be consumed on electronic paper, according to German media executive Mathias Doepfner.
The new devices will be “super-thin, super-flexible,” so readers will be able to roll them up and put them in their jacket pocket, the chief executive officer of Axel Springer SE told the NOAH Internet Conference in Berlin on Tuesday.
“This electronic paper will look like a piece of paper today,” but offer the amenities of a tablet and more, said Doepfner, who’s turned Axel Springer from a traditional publisher into one of Germany’s leading digital media companies.
The vision of a mass market for paper-thin digital readers may still be some time away. Sony Corp.’s Digital Paper System carries a list price of $799 and is on backorder on the company’s U.S. website. The one-page, 13.3-inch flexible electronic paper display is aimed at select user groups including lawyers, legislators and “globe-trotting executives,” according to Sony.
Doepfner has seen prototypes and said he believes it’s only a question of time until digital paper becomes a commodity. Mobile phones and tablets are just an early version of how people will consume tomorrow’s news, he said.
Publishers and startups in Europe are looking for ways to make money from online news. Germany’s biggest news publications including Bild and Der Spiegel have started cooperating with Dutch digital newsstand Blendle to sell individual articles to online users. Readers get an instant refund if they don’t like an article, Blendle, which has 300,000 users, said on Tuesday.
European media companies have to come up with innovative business models to successfully compete with the likes of Google Inc., Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc., said Christian Wegner, head of digital at Munich-based ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG, which has shifted part of its TV content online. “You won’t beat them on technology,” he told the conference.
(An earlier version of this story corrected the spelling of Blendle in the 6th paragraph.)