Of Ryan Sholin’s list of 10 obvious things about the future of newspapers you need to get through your head, there are a few points I particularly like.
- New delivery systems – RSS, SMS, Facebook, Twitter, etc. – aren’t the competition. Ignore them at your own peril.
- You donâ€™t need millions of dollars or HD cameras or years of training to make it happen; all you need is the right frame of mind.
- Bloggers arenâ€™t an uneducated lynch mob unconcerned by facts. Theyâ€™re your readers and your neighbors and if you play your cards right, your sources and your community moderators.
I also like the first comment response by online journalism educator Mindy McAdams, who says user-generated content shouldn’t exist in a backwater (or not at all), but in “a place where the publicâ€™s concerns and interests (not just their opinions) are brought out and discussed”.
This ties in with the idea that bloggers = readers = neighbours = community sources.
And not only that, but online-savvy community sources.
Mark Glaser from MediaShiftÂ gives his breakdown of how the newspaper of the future will thrive, minus the paper.
It basically breaks down to these seven things.
- community and citizen journalists
- niche topics
- staff with multiple skills
- audio and video aren’t “web extras”, they’re just part of the story
- respond to criticism positively
- leave the “save it for print” mindset behind.
Essentially, become a web-first newsroom.
David Lazarus in the San Francisco Chronicle argues that, for newspapers to “survive in an age of free online content” they need to start charging for the use of their products online.
The argument is counter-intuitive.Â It is an age of free online content.Â That is the fact. Â
If newspapers start charging for their online products, they won’t survive in this age of free online content.Â People will simply go elsewhere.
Should newspapers sue Google or Yahoo for their content appearing on news aggregators?Â No, but perhaps in their concern they could collaborate with Google to count online readership.Â Surely another way of counting online readership for individual mastheads could be when they are read externally, in the same way RSS readership can be counted even when your site is not visited.
Also stake claim to some of the advertising click, or visit length, revenue being collected, and it becomes desirable to a media outlet that their content is seen freely by as wide an audience as possible.
Whatever else, newspapers must demonstrate that their online content has value.
“The students I teach really do believe that everything on the Internet is theirs for the taking,” Kirtley said. “Young people have been conditioned to believe that they’re entitled to this content.”
It’s time for newspapers to condition them otherwise.Â
No, it is time for all media outlets with online interests to demonstrate their content has value, and then to stop harping and work a bit harder at figuring out how they’re going to get advertising to pay for it – in the same way the advertising pays for their print stable.
I haven’t got the time to go into the specifics, but search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most important aspects of web production and driving traffic to your site. The following seven articles will give you more than enough information to get started with.
- How to Write Magnetic Headlines
- SEO Copywriting 2.0
- Copywriting 101: An Introduction to Copywriting
- Blog Architecture: The reason Iâ€™m ignoring your blog
- SEO with WordPress for beginners
- How to Attract Links and Increase Web Traffic â€“ The Ultimate Guide
- The Definitive Guide to Semantic Web Markup for Blogs
In truth these aren’t necessarily the top seven SEO articles ever written.
What is true is that they are all excellent guides to what everyone in web production should be looking out for.
Here’s an excellent interview by Terry Heaton with Tom Kennedy, managing editor for multimedia at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive. Read the whole thing for some good insight to a successful – or at least well-funded and innovative – online video newsroom.
I can say with certainty that a young generation of video journalist/editors is being created world wide, in part by the fluidity and ease of digital gathering and editing tools, and the natural inventiveness/curiosity of a generation weaned on visual media and consumer culture. The trick is getting the best values and practices of mainstream journalism inculcated into the individual arsenals of those practitioners and reworking our journalistic gathering and dissemination practices in a way that enables fluid, personal, evolved, visual story-telling to occur.
…there is a chance to develop this form of story-telling and create the vehicles that enable it to find an audience just as surely as today’s “reality shows” have worked for mainstream broadcast media. I would argue that we are the ones creating the true “reality shows” of our planet’s stories. I would also argue that public appetite for our content is there once people find it and are exposed to it.
When the local newspaper is sending out 26 print journalists and photographers with video cameras every day, where do you think people are going to go for their news?Â Online, because no TV station can match that volume of local news coverage.
Local news stations, please take note.Â As all media move to the web, the local paper is your direct video competitor – and doing a much better job.
Have a look at what four of Britain’s major dailies are doing with online.
They look at the online strategies of the Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Sun and the Daily Mirror
Part 1: Logistics Matter
Part 2: Let readers lead your content
Part 3: The web provides opportunities to show content on more than one platform. Use it wisely.
Part 4: Donâ€™t forget your staff, or the bank balance
In lamenting the cutbacks he says are destroying the Los Angeles Times, Sasha Abramsky says its an industry-wide problem that is driven more by a relationship breakdown with readers than a profit grab by shareholders who, up until this point, have been taking a large part of the blame.
It’s not that there isn’t an appetite for international reporting and serious investigative work in the US Rather it’s that the symbiotic relationship between readers and newspapers has broken down.
He says â€œthe internet risks killing off the goose that keeps laying its golden eggsâ€, particularly if what he calls a ‘critical mass’ of people cancel their print subscriptions because they can get the same content for free from online news services like Google or Yahoo.
But the internet also presents amazing opportunities. That a business can’t effectively harness those opportunities presented to it will simply see market forces at work. Innovative and creative people, taking an entrepreneurial approach, will drive the market – as they always have. I don’t believe for a second that news is just a commodity, but it is and has always been a profit-making business.
People will still be informed, as long as the media in their community don’t allow themselves to get left behind.
Another report along the lines of the previous – Web revolution leaving newsgathering in a lurch
The problem with cutbacks media-wide, according to Tom Rosenstiel (director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, publishers of the State of the News Media report), is that in many communities, â€œpeople will suddenly discover that there hasn’t been a reporter at the city council meeting for weeks and that no one is checking the police blotter. It could happen little by little and be discovered after the fact.â€œ
And with the reliance on newspaper journalism driving daily radio and TV stories (because of their own staff cutbacks), the loss of a newspaper or even just a diminished capacity to report as it once did, will have news coverage consequences for radio and TV also. Naturally this translates to a less-informed public because of a dearth of coverage media-wide.
There is an argument that online should be 24 hours, news straight to the web rather than waiting for the print run, hourly update or 6pm broadcast, but lack of resources, if only in staffing, presents the same problems for the online arm of newspapers.
“…most newspapers are ramping up their websites to stay relevant. But because online advertising lags in comparison to print, many newspapers can’t adequately staff their websites with reporters who gather news.
What is it readers want, content or design?
A recent eyetracker study has shown what web designers might already know – less information and more white space on a web page results in better recall and comprehension.
- Rewrite + reformat = remember
- Precise and relevant editing = successful design
- Photos edited for relevance = photos viewed
Read the study here and see images of the eyetracker ‘hotspot’ results.
If you had to decide between content or visual aesthetics, it’s quite clear that content is king. No matter how good your site looks, if the content can’t keep people, visitors won’t stay beyond the â€œoo, that’s prettyâ€ phase. But too much content, and more importantly cluttering the screen with it, can lose people as well.
Basically, as LostRemote says, â€œGive your audience the essentials, give a clean presentation and they will remember the information. Time to clear out the clutter from your sites.â€
A personal experience of this for me was a news site where I was looking for video content. I was convinced I had looked carefully for any links to their video, and finally in frustration emailed the site asking for direction. The video content link ended up being on the front page of the website, but below the fold (scrolling). Had the page been better designed I should have seen it easily. Finding information on a news portal shouldn’t be like a choose-your-own-adventure book.
From the study:
At one point, the media wasn’t sure how to approach the web – should they ridicule it, ignore it and wait till it goes away, or see it as a threat to be dealt with? The Internet and those who populated its content were seen as unprofessional, unreliable, unreadable and apparently a waste of time. Now that it’s making an impression, however, mainstream media still may not be entirely sure how to harness the Internet, but they’re at least making cautious approaches.
In his assessment of the State of the News Media report released earlier this year, Steve Johnson at the Chicago Tribune has found that media companies are terrified of the Internet. The upside, he says, is that they’re finally taking the web seriously and making moves to exploit it but, being 10 years behind the curve, there’s a bit of work to be done.
“…journalists now see the Internet as a possible salvation and not this horrible threat to their standards. They are experimenting wildly, but no formula has emerged and maybe even less of an idea of how to pay for it.
And as always, how to pay for it is the problem. With global newspaper readership in decline (except in China, India and a few other parts of the third world), the media have to figure out how to harness the precious advertising dollar on the web, because almost nobody is prepared to pay for news content at this point.
See the State of the News Media report in its entirety.
Perhaps it’s a result of recent numbers released saying newspaper circulation has declined yet again, but David Letterman’s Late Show Top Ten list the other night was â€œTop Ten Signs Your Newspaper is in Troubleâ€œ.
In reference to the post title, I don’t think news is a joke. Newspapers shouldn’t panic, but take heart that there is also a trend to increasing online readership. The revenue lost from print isn’t yet being returned online, and it might never fully be, but in the long run media outlets are not likely to go out of business. They’ll just be smarter about how they manage their resources and news collection. For example, in the form of unpaid citizen journalist contributors.
From David Letterman’s Late Show
Top Ten Signs Your Newspaper is in Trouble.
We need to be certain that what we are creating in online journalism is a new model.Â And this is exactly what makes the future of the new medium exciting – “we” are creating it.Â The collective “You”, who were named TIME Magazine’s People of the Year for the explosion in interactive, community-based web content.Â The accessible technology and resources required to now put audio, video or text online makes every single person a potential media contributor.Â It’s not the quality, the ethics, or the substance that is suffering, as some may argue – it’s just presenting it in a new way that can engage people who are growing up in a new world. Â
From Michael Rosenblum:
Web video is not about television. And web journalism is not about text alone. It is about something new and exciting … the creation of a new medium, a new way of speaking to one another.
Those who believe that the web is simply a place to post conventional TV news stories or TV shows cannot be blamed too much. They are simply the heirs to an old and venerable tradition in the world of invention: recording the last words of the dying.
Using the medium effectively will require imagination.Â If old-school TV and print styles are forced on the web they may as well not be there.Â If they’re being forced on the web because people can’t comprehend their usefulness in any form of expression other than the traditional one, imaginative minds will not only transform journalism on the web but also capture the market.
Market is money.Â Now who’s listening?
How are newspapers (in particular) responding to the threat of losing revenue and market share to online? There are constant opinion pieces about the subject in print and online the world over, and I link you here to yet another.
Very rarely are you watching online video from a news site that’s bigger than about 600 pixels wide. Not only has the vision been compressed, so has the sound. Online viewers live with less-than-perfect vision and sound quality, and why? Because it’s not what is of utmost importance to them. Content, content, content.
Basically the argument in the article is that a “good enough” attitude towards online video (in this example) is often interpreted as degrading the mission, whatever that might be.
I would argue that it is in fact perfectionism that could be degrading the mission. The article tells one story of a paper that purchased expensive cameras and expensive editing software to respond to the call for online video, and so could only afford that small amount of equipment. But it meant only two people could work at a time, either shooting or editing, and the length of their production process meant they were scooped online by other outlets.
So what did the editor do? Better-invested his resources in six cameras that were 90% cheaper than the others, and allowed staff to use iMovie, the free video editing software that came on the Apple Macs most of them already used. Instead of two people, now 17 were working on video, and instead of only managing 50 local videos a month with the more expensive gear, they were now churning out 195 per month.
And the result? Readers responded and the traffic came, nearly doubling in 10 months.
In an interesting summation of what web video should NOT be, the following observation from Kurt Anderson is amusing because it’s true.
…a nervous editor interviewing wooden film critics, could be a public-access cable clip. Often, the Times reportersâ€™ videos are like tentative, so-so versions of TV-news spots, unremarkable sound bites interlarded with scripted blah-blah boilerplate.
The lessons seem obvious: Donâ€™t do Web video if you donâ€™t have anything interesting to show, and donâ€™t compete with TV unless you can do something they canâ€™t or wonâ€™t. In other words, use the medium.