We do want newspapers

I’ve been asking people why they like their newspaper:

  • I know the journalists – I follow their arguments.  I know their bias.
  • I can identify with the views offered
  • I like the weekend section – I read over the following week
  • I like the feel of the newspaper
  • I get a local perspective on international affairs
  • They call it as they see it

Lots of good reasons.

But the pressure continues for the industry.  I have commented previously on the impact of the web on newspapers – that they are too slow to be ‘news’.   However I would say, as a regular user of public transport, the smart phone/ blackberry/ ipod – have also hit them hard.  There was a time you wanted a paper hopping on a bus or tram.  Now you have full radio availability from your mobile phone.

Interesting piece by Howard Kurtz in today’s Washington Post. He references his frustration that the newspapers may have missed the boat, missed the opportunity to use the web intelligently to improve their offering, rather than kill it.

But going forward – what about the F generation (ie the facebook generation).  Will they ever look to newspapers the way we (the baby boomers) have seen them – informing us, setting much of the agenda, source of entertainment?  I don’t think so.

Will the missing advertising revenues ever return?  Many of the newspapers have reengineering their processes, have removed lots of costs, have invested significantly in their web presence, have used the web to assist in producing their papers.

Tend to agree with Mr Kurtz.  There is no one model.  There will be opportunities – because of the reasons people like newspapers.  But organisations will need to be nimble, flexible and continue to evolve their models.  as I have said before quality journalism must have a future – society needs it.  But how it will be organisaed and how people will profit from it…to be worked out.

Interesting comment re journalists and the internet

In today’s Sunday Times another excellent article from Terry Prone – entitled: It’s in the media’s interest to support a probe into privacy.  In the middle of the piece Terry Prone makes the following comment:

‘It must be said, however, that the openness of journalists to examine all sides of possible legislation is currently complicated by their promiscuous fascination with internet-based offerings. Few of them concentrate on the dangers that online content pose to individual journalists and to the profession as a whole. I can think of no other well-paid profession whose members compete against each other for free. You don’t get orthopaedic surgeons doing knee replacements in their leisure time without charge. Yet you get journalists writing blogs for nothing, their urge for self-expression obscuring the fact that they are undermining their own employers. After all, why should readers buy newspapers when they can get the same writers on the net for free?

Journalists who pride themselves on their maverick stance are nonetheless joining the electronic herd, submitting to the peer pressure which holds that you must have, for example, a Facebook site. ‘

I have commented in the past on the challenges facing the newspaper industry.  Journalists are not the only ones  ‘joining the electronic herd’.  An obvious example is the number of IT consultants blogging and providing thier expertise for free – in competition with themselves or their employers.

There is another element to this – some feeling (amongst those blogging) of belonging to a larger, collaborative environment – with an exchange of ideas and a sharing of knowledge.  The question as to whether this will lead to useful work, revenue, jobs is largely unanswered.

‘Peer pressure which holds that you must have, for example, a Facebook site’ – yes I think there is some definite pressure around facebook.  One reason for this is the existence of 150m+ accounts  (how many of these are active?).  But for many facebook is a useful tool, rather than something they are pressurised to use.

Terry Prone and many of the other journalists writing for the Sunday Times are the reason there is a future for this industry.  But the business model my be changing.  The news is available online almost immediately (e.g. twitter).  But the assessment, the interpretation, the commentary – this is where quality journalism is required and has a strong future – with the right business model.