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What Roger Fidler, a proven visionary, predicts about iPads and the future of newspapers

Fidler-5At the journalism confab I attended in Washington earlier this week -- the American Society of News Editors annual convention --  the following people stopped by:

* The president of the United States, Barack Obama
* The likely Republican nominee in the presidential campaign, Mitt Romney
* The famous reporting duo who broke the Watergate story, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
* The first woman editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson
* The founder of the Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington
* A genuine visionary, Roger Fidler

Chances are that you haven't heard of that last entry on the list.

 Who's Roger Fidler?  An unassuming former newspaperman turned academic researcher with a close-cropped beard, a lively demeanor and a few predictions based on his most recent survey.

 Why should we care?  Because Roger Fidler, now with the University of Missouri, was predicting in the 1980s that something very like the iPad would come along and change the way people read. The 1980s, in digital time, were when dinosaurs roamed the earth, so the extent to which his vision has come true is remarkable.

Given that, what he says now may bear a listen.   Fidler is still talking about digital tablets but now he says that they're the best possible way to save newspaper journalism -- if newspaper companies can figure out a way to fully harness their revenue-producing capabilities.  Sales are exploding (one in five American adults has a tablet now) and it's not unlikely that within a few years that number will climb to 40 or even 50 percent.

 Here's a report on on Fidler's findings from The Root. 
And here's an in-depth story on him from the Washington Post earlier this month.

If newspaper companies can't figure out how to use digital tablets to save newspaper-style journalism, it won't be Roger Fidler's fault.

(Photo of Fidler courtesy of the University of Missouri's Reynolds Journalism Institute, where he is the director of digital publishing)

Twitter: @SulliView