Tapscott on future of newspapers

New models for newspaper business

Arianna Huffington talks to the media during h...
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Been working my way through Tapscott and Williams’ excellent ‘Macrowikinomics‘.  Good Chapter (11) re ‘The Demise of the Newspaper’.  Favourite topic of mine – as an avid consumer of news (both on and off line).  And in may respects this chapter speaks to any business – you cannot stand still, you cannot just put up walls – you must change with the times, adapt, provide what the market wants (or thinks it wants).

Good, simple advice for news executives:

  1. Familiarise yourselves with the technology being used by young people
  2. Forget about making money from commodity news
  3. Develop unique value proposition e.g. The Economist
  4. Provide rich multimedia experiences
  5. Support/ enable/ lead collaborative innovation e.g. The Guardian

In the chapter he reviews a number of interesting developments including the success of the Huffington Post, the survival of investigative journalism e.g. Propublica, possible roles for journalists as curators.

I believe the game is only now really moving on for newspapers – as smart phones, tablets and internet TVtake a real grip.

And the current initiative out of Ireland, Storyful, is another excellent example for news media execs looking for innovative thinking and use of current and emerging technologies including cloud computing and semantic web.

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newspapers using semantic web to be more relevant, more useful

Linked open data from The Guardian

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This is a good story re developments at The Guardian newspaper in terms of using semantics – can only increase the relevance of the Guardian to a wider group of people – and increase (widely) referencing of journalism prodcued by The Guardian.  As a group they are also making their contribution to the linked open data movement.

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Where now for newspapers?

Challenges are just becoming more serious for the traditional newspaper industry

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Mr Murdoch has succeeded in getting me to buy his newspaper on a number of occasions since he made it unavailable online.  The downside is that this is really causing me to compare the quality and relevance of his Sunday newspaper with the vast amount of data available to me online.  And I do not enjoy having to deal with the piles of paper.

On the other hand the Irish Times provides an excellent online service – which inclines me to cross reference articles from the newspaper in my various blogging/ tweeting activities.

On Sundays I now find myself checking out the Independent online early in the day – potentially overlooking The Business Post and the Sunday Times.

One other key development – I am now an avid user of a smartphone – seems easier than ever to keep up to date e.g. using various news services which are constantly being updated.

Was interested in this piece by Ross Dawson.  I think he may be right -give or take a couple of years.  When you combine all of this with a youth growing up using social networks and smart phones – not looking great on the newspaper front.  And that’s not something that pleases me – as someone who has enjoyed reading newspapers for over 30 years.

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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.


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.

Reading the news online

I have restricted myself to reading the news online

Over the last few weeks I have restricted myself to reading the news online (as against print copy).  On a Sunday I typically scan the following online: Sunday Independent, Sunday Times (Ireland edition), Sunday Tribune and Sunday Business Post (not available until later).  Many attractions include: free, no pile of paper to get rid of, easy to index anything of interest (using www.faviki.com), easy to search for what’s of interest.  So what are the disadvantages? – reading on my computer screen is a strain, reading at a laptop in the lounge area seems less sociable that actually flicking through newspapers where you can handon the paper to someone else in the room.  There is also a perception (for others and for myself) that because I work in the information systems sector when I am using a computer (even to read the news) I am working.

To some extent reading the news online faciliates greater social newtorking (tagging, indexing, etc) but impacts negatively on the immediate social network – the people with whom you live.