End of the Line for the Metro?

Last week I left a ‘food for thought’ question at the end of our latest blog post about the WiFi trials at Charing Cross Station. Over the weekend it’s a question that kept cropping up in my mind.

Will access to WiFi on commutes affect sales of newspapers and free media such as ‘The Metro’?

How can it not?!

Everybody has their own personal preference of newspaper and by lining the tubes with WiFi signals you will gain access to the journalists and editors you want. Couple that with the environmental impact of thousands of newspapers being printed and then recycled/disposed of and this could be yet another nail in the coffin of the long-suffering print industry.

Having your own, bespoke news service on your phone is just one of the personal benefits. This will also put an end to problem that we are all guilty or victims of – tube/newspaper reading etiquette. Viewing news from a smartphone is far more compact, the effort of trying to read the on the tube and the constant struggle to manipulate the paper into small enough pieces not to frustrate a neighbour whilst still keeping it legible. Mine always turns into some form of origami art after folding it down to read an article and still regain my personal space (and not invade others).

This would open up a lot of opportunity for the development of mobile-specific sites and apps as demand for access through smartphones grows. Giving choice to a huge audience creates competition and more thought on design and function of these sites will have to be given, giving apps an even stronger foothold in the future of online content.

This does, however, assume that the access is affordable and consistent.

Putting aside the cost factor (we are always going to be paying through the nose!), if you’re reading an article and the signal drops you lose your page. Wouldn’t it be great if, before you even left the house in the morning there was an app that downloaded the latest news articles to your device? You wouldn’t need an internet connection for the duration of your journey. Wait there, let’s look into that more carefully…

Posted: November 2010

Author: Slate

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