challenges for newspaper industry

In my recent post I commented on my ongoing experience of reading the news online (http://www.bluereek.com/2009/03/reading-the-news-online/).  Broadly it’s positive todate.

As in any economic downturn the newspaper industry is being hard hit by significant drops in advertising revenue.  However there is a wider debate taking place about the future of newspapers – free papers, local papers, online news services.  Yesterday’s FT article, ‘When newspapers fold’ brings much of this together in one place.

I do not think there is any doubt that we continue, for now,  to need a vibrant, stimulating, well informed newspaper industry.  Obviously the web has changed things – in terms of work methods, speed of dissemination of information (e.g. twitter), availability of video, podcasts, etc.  And newspapers have not been slow to engage with the technology – providing current news feeds, quality web sites, personalised feeds, etc.

The challenge though now is how to build out a business which leverages these options/opportunities/ risks – providing a quality product, employment for news producers/ analysts and a reasonable return for the investor.   The industry seems to have flipped from charging for its online offerings to giving them away back to charging again. I do not think ‘news’ per se will command much in terms of income – there are too many ways for news to get around the world (as evidenced by the growth in mobile phones).  Indepth analysis, commentary, a particular slant/view – people may pay for this.  But is it a case of turning newspapers into magazines – where the timeliness is not as important?

Blogs such as this one are of little threat to the newspaper industry.  But as the semantic web advances we will begin to see the web providing a platform whereby individual users can gather all they are interested in through a portal.  www.twine.com provides an early insight.  But this is a long way short of what will be delivered – with each of us using a range of ‘agents’ to track/analyse/ present news/ research/ entertainment of interest to us.

Interesting times.  Newspapers who have great editors, journalists, photographers, researchers, producers must have a good future, if they can figure out the business model.  But everything goes into the melting pot.

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