The newspaper industry may be struggling, but it is not dead. Nor will it be for many years. As newspaper outlets work toward a new business model, one thing remains certain – the spread of information is accelerating. With the proliferation of smartphones, every person has a printing press in their pocket capable of disseminating information within seconds.

Last week, fellow ‘Foiler Caitlin Cassady and I attended a Churchill Club breakfast event featuring Nick Bilton, technology reporter for The New York Times Bits Blog, where he discussed the future of the newspaper industry as well as other areas where technology is impacting the way we think, interact, live, and do business.

With today’s powerful mobile devices capable of phone calls, text messages, Twitter updates, Facebook connections and Internet browsing, the connected world has come to expect immediacy. At the same time, the general makeup of media has transformed from one-way conversations to community conversations allowing reporters and people to interact.

However, as Bilton pointed out, we don’t buy newspapers for the content, we buy them for the experience. While some may discount that, think of it this way: Would you read an article if it were printed on Post-It Notes? Chances are you said no.

Outlets such as The New York Times are investing heavily in R&D to develop new ways for people to consume media. In addition to his role as a reporter, Bilton also leads the R&D department of The New York Times where they have been developing ways for people to customize the news they want to receive. One example he showed was a newspaper street kiosk where you select the sections of the paper you want to receive and it is printed on the spot.

To meet these evolving behaviors, if newspapers expect to survive beyond the next five years, they need to personalize and enhance the experience for readers.

Bilton mentioned a number of other areas where technology is disrupting:

  • In a study, Laprascopic surgeons that played first-person shooter video games were 60 percent more accurate and 40 percent quicker during surgery because games such as these improve hand-eye coordination and reaction times.
  • User interfaces across all platforms will soon be revolutionized to ease multi-tasking because today’s interfaces are like “someone holding a stop sign in front of your face and tazing you.”
  •  Privacy has become an economic business model because the government has been slow to act — or react — depending on how you look at it.

How do you think the newspaper industry should change to fit the evolving needs of a technological society?

— Matt Wolpin