The Coming Era of E-Newspapers

Sometime in the next two years, if Hearst Corp.’s plans work out, a handful of Seattle Post-Intelligencer readers will begin getting their morning news not from the paper on the front stoop or by dropping change in a corner newsbox — or even on their laptop — but from a new electronic newspaper that’s displayed on a screen as light and flexible as paper.

The screen will be about the size of a small tabloid newspaper, and it will be in color.

The electronic P-I will carry real-time news, same as the Internet, not yesterday’s news like traditional papers. Readers will turn the e-paper’s pages by touching the flexible screen. And when those readers head off to work, they will roll up the electronic P-I and stuff it in their pocket, purse, or briefcase.

“If you could tell someone, ‘We’ll deliver your news in a customized way, so that when you wake up at 6 a.m., you’ll have 6 a.m. news on the front page, every day,’ we think consumers will say, ‘Hey, that’s pretty darn good,'” said Ken Bronfin, who heads Hearst’s interactive division.

With the ink barely dry on a new joint operating agreement (JOA) between Hearst and the Seattle Times Co., which under the agreement prints and distributes both papers, Hearst is planning to field test a version of the long-promised e-paper here in Seattle. Some industry experts think the e-paper will upend the entire newspaper industry. It will most certainly rattle Seattle’s media market.

Hearst officials say they hope to begin testing their device with the P-I here and at some other sites where the company has media operations within two years. While the display technology originally was developed to deliver print news, Hearst officials told Crosscut it could also become a flexible, low-cost platform for delivering video or standard Web content. Hearst owns a dozen newspapers, including the P-I, but also 29 television stations, 19 magazines, and numerous Web sites.

Crosscut via Slippery Brick