The Chronicle has five years to live

The San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, and just about every newspaper in America will be gone in five years, if you believe an upcoming report from USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism.

“Is America at a Digital Turning Point?” predicts only four major American newspapers are likely to survive, and none of those are west of Washington D.C. If you live outside the Washington to New York corridor, you will be reliant upon online sites, social networks, broadcasters and weekly newspapers for your news and information.

By 2017, the report from USC’s Center for the Digital Future says only one in 20 will use a desktop computer to access news, and the tablet will replace the laptop as the dominant vehicle for Internet use.

Researchers also found that while social media has exploded, most of the content has no credibility. More than half talked to said that only a small portion — or even none — of the content they see on social networks is reliable.

The report also questioned if current media companies can successfully transition to an online-only existence, as posed by Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center:

“Will media organizations survive and thrive when they move exclusively to online availability?  How will the changing delivery of content affect the quality and depth of journalism?”

Well, we’ve got a few ideas about that here at SFBay. :) But the USC study says wherever it ends up, it’s likely to occur on a platform that doesn’t even exist yet, much as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook all sprung from nothing in the previous decade.