Posts Tagged ‘dying newspapers’

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A piece in today’s Financial Times focuses on US start-up Journalism Online – reporting that more than 500 newspapers and magazines are joining the ‘online payment platform’. The idea is a one-stop payment shop for a whole host of providers.

Lately – and especially since Rupert Murdoch threw his (renewed) weight behind charging for content- I’ve heard numerous commentators state that if it can be made easy to pay, then people will do so. Even Charlie Brooker has been on the case .

Most likely, a model like Journalism Online’s is the way to go. Whether it will be them that succeed is another question, but the interesting thing is the reasons they think it will work.  Describing ‘Why Readers Will Pay For Online News’, the company seems to simply be stating ‘Why News Organisations Can’t Keep Offering Content For Free’. These are clearly not the same thing – just because your news organisation (the founders are, I understand, former journalists) can’t survive without revenue being kept up, does not mean that people will pay for it. Try looking from the other side.

Personally, I think that those that have the money, and the desire for quality news, will slowly come to the acceptance that they will need to pay a small amount for it. Millions will not pay, and will get their news from secondary sources. But if the price is right (ie , low – think how internationally popular British papers, for instance, would see readers drop off  if readers in poorer countries were forced to pay an amount that was deemed reasonable in Britain), they’ll make themselves some money.

But publishers shouldn’t forget that different people have different means. The FT points out in the aforementioned piece that the Wall Street Journal and the FT themselves have been succesful at implementing paid models. Well, I think we can all agree that firstly, most readers of the FT and WSJ are searching for niche news. But arguably more importantly, most readers of the WSJ and FT are not short of a bob or two. What works for them may not keep others going.  As someone who has essentially lost a job twice this year due to media organisations/content creators spending more than they bring in, I can agree that this has to be fixed soon. But just because turkies don’t vote for Christmas, we can’t assume cost-free turkies wouldn’t go down equally well,  if not better, than their free range, organic grain-fed cousins.

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Just came across a great new (2008) news site Stateside, and suprised I’ve never come across it before. Muckety does something newspapers cannot, which is provide a good extra dose of content to each article posted, whether on politics, the economy, business or media, or whatever else (US-centric) topic they’re covering.

The way they do this is through what we called ‘mind map’ or ‘spider diagrams’ in school- showing patterns of relationships, or if you’re feeling cynical, webs of influence, on the topic at hand. Click on the link above to see what I’m struggling to explain.  From what I’ve seen, it seems to be an effective use of adding value to news sites.

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Just a quick post to express my enthusiasm for a new three-parter on the beeb, from The Money Programme, on the growth of online media and online news, and what this means for newspapers.

Fronted by the always enthusiastic Janet Street-Porter, the first episode of Media Revolution gives a great rundown of some of the issues facing the dead-tree media, and correctly concludes (in my humble opinion) that the online media revolution will not kill newspapers, but simply kill the weak. Let’s see if The Independent, The Express, and even The Mirror are around in a few years.

Also of note is a trip to News International‘s new printing press, an ode to dead-tree media on a massive scale. Murdoch even pops up for a few comments, and as ever comes across as a man in love with the medium- even if seeing a stop to his aquisitions probably is in the interests of the fourth estate.

All in all, great TV – which UK users (and others capable of masking their IP address!) can catch on the iPlayer.

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Well, actually I don’t think so. The last time I bought a paper was when Obama won the election (a copy of The Grauniad and one of The Sun, clearly). But I see what Brian Till is saying in this major guilt trip.

What I find most interesting is the action he takes to relieve himself of some of this Google-based angst; subscribing to four newspapers. For such a forward-looking guy, it seems like a cork in the dam, or whatever the phrase is. Saving newspapers from online news will take more than that. Personally, rescuing news in general, and good journalism, is the more interesting fight.

Instead of looking to newspapers, I’m pretty sure we can look towards quality journalistic magazines as saviours. Sales of UK magazines such as The New Statesman, The Economist and The Spectator have all fared very well in recent years, depsite the downsurge in newspaper sales. They, of course, are also printed on paper. It seems having something in your hand is something people want to have – and these magazines are proof that just because something is also available in the form of online news, does not mean it cannot be sold in dead-tree format. Of course, the fine lines between news, comment and opinion may have something to do with it, but on the whole when a magazine has articles providing a) a wrap to the week’s news and b) a longer in depth look at an issue, then they may be that much more resilient.

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France is fascinating. Sarkozy won the last election comfortably against the sociliasts, but has now announced massive state-aid to prop up the newspaper industry.

Last week, he announced €600m for newspapers, including measures that will see a free one-year subscription to the newspaper of choice to every 18 year-old in the country. But will this sve the industry? Because, let’s face it, this looks to be about jobs and the economy – and not about investing in quality journalism. If the most popular newspaper in France is sports paper L’Equipe, what’s to suggest the kids in question don’t sign up on mass to read that particular publication?

There are some worried that this amounts to political interference – ‘he who giveth may taketh away’, says Jeff Jarvis. But this ignores the problem, in the same way that massive bail-outs of the car industry in the US (and, let’s face it, the banking industry in the US, here in the UK, and elsewhere) ignore the real problem – newspaper circulations are not falling because ‘the youth’ aren’t interested in news, it’s because their news is consumed online. Just as teenagers don’t necessarrily want the same gas-guzzling ‘Chlesea tractors’ they did when oil-consumption and global warming weren’t such a front-page issue, neither do they want to wait for their news to be printed on dead trees.  Unions might have the best interests of their workers at heart, but the long term interests of France aren’t best-served by propping up an industry that’s never been particulalry popular anyway, compared to the circulation of papers in the UK, for example.

Included in the announcement are tax-breaks for those starting up online news websites and organisations. This, it seems, gets closer to the real issue. But why waste paper on providing free papers to teenagers? They can get their news online if they want it. Sarko and other leaders would be better off investing in quality infrastructure with the kind of broadband that will serve their  national media’s interests – as well as their economies’ in general – for many more years to come.

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