CHINA / National

Newspapers encouraged to go electronic
By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-08-05 09:02

What is a seemingly impossible scene today may be the norm in China's near future: A subway passenger scanning an electronic newspaper in the form of a plastic video screen thin, foldable and wireless with constantly changing text.

In the guideline to the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) for China's Press Industry, unveiled on Friday, "digital printing" is seen as the future of print media.

The country's traditional print media are encouraged to develop digital products such as e-newspapers and provide value-added information services according to the guideline set out by the General Administration of Press and Publications.

The administration also plans to start an experimental programme for e-newspapers to test the technology and platforms for digital publishing with the participation of print media, IT companies and mobile service providers.

Lin Jiang, deputy director of the administration's newspaper and periodical management department, said the change would be "revolutionary" when he attended the 3rd Annual Conference on the Competitive Edge of China's Press Industry on Friday in Beijing.

"Newspapers won't be confined to paper," he said. "With the development of transmission and electronic display technologies, newspapers will reach more readers in multiple formats."

Lin said e-newspapers may take different forms. For example, an e-newspaper could take on the literal properties of a standard broadsheet newspaper page, presented on a display panel just as it would appear on paper with no difference to the printed edition in size, layout or typography.

The simulated electronic paper display, which consists of thin laminated sheets of flexible plastic, could be folded and rolled up for easy carrying. Through wire or wireless website connections, readers would be able to constantly update newspaper content.

E-newspapers could also be magazine-sized in a multimedia digital format that combines many qualities of print with the interactive features of the Web to add significant value for readers and advertisers.

Lin admitted digital publishing still faces technical problems, but he was confident all could be solved in five years. With the development of technology, the cost of an e-newspaper display panel would be reduced so that digital publications could reach more readers, he said.

Yu Guoming, associate dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at Renmin University, said developing e-newspapers is an effective way for the print media to withstand the impact of new media.

He said new media such as websites, blogs and vlogs (video-blogs) are enjoying increasing popularity, especially in the under-30 age bracket, and the traditional print media should try to revamp their products irrespective of content or format.

"Print media that enjoy a good reputation should make use of their 'brands'," he said. "Credibility is their advantage, especially when the Web contains a large amount of false information."