The Journalists Formerly Known as the Media: My Advice to the Next Generation – Jay Rosen: Public Notebook

August 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Media, News, Print

The newspaper business model will not be saved with the introduction of paywalls because it is a rejection of the newspaper business model. The current model, entirely based on advertising paying for news, is in the process of being left behind by those who would defend it. It is worrying that users will now be made to pay for news simply because marketing departments are unable to make online advertising work.

The central argument, that users need to pay for news to recoup costs, is an effective raising of the white flag. It’s an admission that, unlike at Google, the media industry is bereft of ideas about how to make online advertising profitable. This extends to the entire industry, all of whom are discussing the merits and timetables of a user-pays model. It just so happens that the News Ltd announcement has thrust that model back into the spotlight.

It reminds me of a rant from David Cross in the outtakes of Arrested Development: “If you can’t market that kind of show and get better ratings, then maybe the problem doesn’t lie here, maybe it lies with marketing”.

In The Australian’s Media and Marketing section on August 10, Mark Day said a paywall would allow newspapers to wrest back control of their business model. How? The way the music industry did, through the “grim enforcement of copyright, uniform action by the music companies and technological advances such as the iTunes micro-payment systems”. The music industry business model was all but destroyed by online, and rather than bludgeoning users to return to the good old days, they instead bow to the consumer who is willing to pay, but demands to control how, when, and what they pay for.

I disagree completely that “the [music] industry was able to wrest back control of its product”. The music industry was dragged kicking and screaming to its knees, finally relinquishing control to a micro-payment model after consumer outrage put a gun to their head and forced the issue. Introducing a user-pays model isn’t about wresting back control of the news product at all, and you could not pick a worse example of an industry to emulate than the music business.

As an aside, in the music industry consumers have always paid for the product. In the news industry, consumers have never paid for the product, advertising has. The cover price of a newspaper wouldn’t cover the cost of the ink on its pages.

Surprisingly there were a few things I agreed with Mark Day about (despite the column’s title, Bloggers may howl, but cash for content makes sense), like his examples of the three strands of news (happening, manufactured, investigated) and what kind of news people might be willing to pay for. It’s a valid argument, and one industry people are having everywhere, but I do wonder if it’s the sense of inevitibility that is now driving the debate. Now that the introduction of pay-per-view content seems inevitable, everyone is expending cognitive energy on the issue, speculating about how the paywall could work, or what content people are willing to pay for. This, instead of developing a model where advertising still pays for news.

Whether it was the classified “rivers of gold” or advertising on the page, the news industry has for some reason given up on that model working online. I find it inexplicable that nobody in the news industry, across the globe, can figure out how to make advertising work online. Google are just smarter, I guess.

No less than the president of media at Thomson Reuters, Chris Ahearn, recently penned a piece titled, Why I believe in the link economy

Blaming the new leaders or aggregators for disrupting the business of the old leaders, or saber-rattling and threatening to sue are not business strategies – they are personal therapy sessions. Go ask a music executive how well it works.

From Mark Day’s Bloggers may howl, but cash for content makes sense

It is clear a free internet has the power to wreck the economic model of newspapers and news-gathering itself. But the irony is, if that were to happen, the most valuable elements of news — that which is investigated, tested and credible — would disappear because of a lack of funding. Ultimately, that serves no one. Society would be the loser.

We do a disservice to society by making that valuable and important news inaccessible, by telling society that, unless you pay, we will withhold the information that informs your understanding of the machinations of government and the economy.

Related reading:

I first started writing this post over a week ago. The biggest addition since then is the Associated Press plan for content charging online, assessed by Nieman Journalism Lab after they got hold an internal AP document labeled, “AP CONFIDENTIAL — NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION.”

UPDATE:
Last week I tweeted about an article that literally took the words out of my mouth in relation to this blog post.
Five Key Reasons Why Newspapers Are Failing | SPLICETODAY.COM
The first point there illustrates this post:
1. Consumers don’t pay for news. They have never paid for news.

How much unique content is out there?

August 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Media, News, Print

Comments Off on How much unique content is out there?

Last week Rupert Murdoch announced that News Corporation would push ahead with the introduction of pay-per-view online content. Since then there have been suggestions Fairfax would follow, and the Boston Globe’s boston.com has also started to head in that direction.

My question is, “How much unique content is out there?”

The arguments in favor of paywalls have largely focused on the value of unique content that is produced by media outlets. I would like to see an objective analysis and review of unique content. I can only assume some sort of exhaustive analysis has informed the direction we are all being pushed towards.

I had already put this question to journalism academic Julie Posetti earlier in the week in an email, but Murdoch’s comments prompted me to ask the question again publicly.
Are there any in-depth studies looking at unique content in newspapers or their online sites, and what do those studies conclude?

On Thursday night, ABC’s Lateline Business reported plans to introduce paywalls at all News Corporation outlets by next year’s Northern summer. In a recorded teleconference Murdoch is heard saying that, to make a paywall work, News Corp would need to “make our content better and differentiate it from other people“.

RUPERT MURDOCH: We just make our content better, and differentiate it from other people and I believe that if we are successful, we’ll be followed by all the media.

Watch the video or read the transcript of the three-minute Lateline Business report on their site.

Or listen to what was said by just Rupert Murdoch here:
[podcast]http://earleyedition.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/murdoch-teleconference.mp3[/podcast]

The wording used sounds more like a statement of future intent – this is what we must do – but much of the paywall argument to date has focused on the unique content that newspapers and their online sites are currently giving away for free. I think using the Wall Street Journal as proof of concept is a bit flawed, because it is very different to a “paper of record”. If WSJ are generally targeting a specific market with market-related content, then they could be described as a niche publication. Is a paper of record that covers the gamut of local, national and world news able to drill down and provide unique content? That is, content that won’t be easily found elsewhere, and provides value to the reader.

I’m hoping a study exists, or some clever postgraduate student is currently working on it. It would be illogical to discuss the possibility of making people pay for unique content without a thorough assessment of the quantity of same.

An interesting one that just popped up yesterday in The Australian’s Media & Marketing section was that subscription paid off for one site after just three weeks.
Subscribers turn profit for NZ site | The Australian

Related reading:
Murdoch On Leading The Charging Charge | paidContent
This Is Rupert’s Last Stand: Making You Pay
Rupert Murdoch to charge to view news websites by 2010 | Media | The Guardian
Roy Greenslade: Murdoch is wrong to charge for online content | Media | guardian.co.uk
News Limited working on paid net models | The Australian
Bloggers may howl, but cash for content makes sense | The Australian

UPDATE:
To be perfectly clear on this, I don’t see a paywall working as a flat entry fee for the entirety of a masthead news site. It’s no secret that the internet’s disruption to the traditional business model is choice. People will only pay to get *exactly* what they want. Niche markets…you’ve heard it all before.
If there has to be an argument for paywalls, then the case of the WSJ is illustrative: people are willing to pay for premium industry insight and business-critical information. In Australia that might similarly translate to the business section of the paper, or quality reporting on state politics.

But then again, it might not. The biggest threat to the paywall will be free quality content available from places like the ABC and BBC.

Australian media organisations on Twitter

March 12, 2008 by  
Filed under Media, Online, Social Networking, Technology

In a rush to get this post out, I buried it in another article, Email Old News to Gen C.
It reappears now because it needed to be republished in its own right as a review of Twitter usage in Australian media and politics.

———-

In Australia, very few news organisations use Twitter. As full disclosure, before I continue, I work at The Courier Mail, a News Limited paper.

An informal audit of a selection of Australian media and their Twitter presence

Fairfax Digital logoFairfax masthead sites

ABC News - logoABC News

News Digital Media - News Limited logoNews Limited masthead sites

I am assuming the unused Twitter accounts above belong to these publications, but it’s entirely possible someone could simply be ‘squatting’ on the Twitter user names.
Twitter logoI set up Twitter accounts for all of The Courier Mail’s news sections in early October last year, making our newspaper one of the only two news outlets in Australia using Twitter (that I have found), and definitely one of the largest media contributors to Twitter by number of content categories, but not necessarily volume of content.

The Courier Mail’s current crop of 20 Twitter user accounts are providing free SMS/IM updates on topics ranging from sports, to business, to breaking news, all with tinyurl links to the original story content. I’m now trying to find time to play around with a Facebook page for The Courier Mail, although I rarely have any spare hours at home to spend doing that.

During the process of setting up these Twitter accounts, I did a search to see if other Australian news outlets were already using Twitter.

Of News Limited mastheads, apart from The Courier Mail, none of the other existing News Ltd Twitter users have posted.
Of Fairfax mastheads, only The Age has a single feed, last updated in May 2007.
The ABC has two feeds – one of which I follow to receive local news alerts on my mobile phone.

A search for “news” in Twitter yields a large number of results. Here are just a few (listed as their Twitter user name) that may be of interest – financialtimes, npr news, cbcnews, wired, ITN_NEWS, BBC, SkyNewsBusiness, indianews, SkyNews, and CNETNews.

In the UK, the BBC and Sky have a larger selection of Twitter updates that can be followed.


The 2007 federal election was approaching when I was working on the Courier Mail Twitter accounts so, having already written a story about politics and social networking, I had a look at what political parties had on Twitter.

At the time the results were:
Greens: http://twitter.com/Greens
Three updates in total, all on August 2, 2007, that are worth mentioning.

The Greens have established a twitter and are testing it.
04:11 PM August 02, 2007
Do you receive my Greens twitter?
04:26 PM August 02, 2007
Hrrrmmm, if I was 14 I’d know exactly what would happen
06:39 PM August 02, 2007

Liberal (both spoofs)
http://twitter.com/johnhoward
http://twitter.com/johnhowardfacts
Labor: none
Democrats: none
Nationals: none

In 2008, however, the Greens seem to have got their act together with a Twitter page feeding from the Greens Blog website.
https://twitter.com/greensblog

I also didn’t find this during the election last year , but https://twitter.com/kevinrudd is another spoof Twitter account.

The possibilities of Twitter as a quick and easy mass distribution method would be well utilised by politicians.

Email is old news to Generation C

January 31, 2008 by  
Filed under Media, Online, Podcasts, Social Networking

LAMP - Laboratory of Advanced Media ProductionOn the LAMP blog, a podcast with Head of Innovation at Nine MSN Jennifer Wilson is instructional for those pushing online news as a social, sharing medium.

She describes Generation C as the 12-24 age range, who think email is for their parents – it’s outdated. They almost exclusively communicate via social networking.

So what are online news sites doing to push every possible integration with social networking sites to increase coverage in this demographic – other than selling out news coverage for entertainment?

The New York Times has started text message news alerts via keywords

I’m not sure how the text message news alerts are different than the text/im/web updates that are already available through their various New York Times Twitter updates. I imagine having the in-house control of text message distribution of news opens more possibilities for monetisation of that media further down the track, rather than waiting for Twitter to start advertising.

New York Times on FacebookThe New York Times also has a Facebook page (approaching 10,000 ‘fans’) and Rob Larson, vice president of product development and management at NYTimes.com said, “We intend to use every available platform to disseminate The Times’s quality news and information.”
via The Editors Weblog

The New York Times is by no means the only media organisation experimenting with digital access and social networking for news. They’re just recognised as one of the leading ones.

In Australia, very few news organisations use Twitter. As full disclosure, before I continue, I’m a journalist at The Courier Mail newspaper, where I worked as an online multimedia producer until December last year before moving into editorial.

Twitter logoI set up Twitter accounts for all of The Courier Mail’s news sections in early October last year, making our newspaper one of the only two news outlets in Australia using Twitter (that I have found), and definitely one of the largest media contributors to Twitter by number of content categories, but not necessarily volume of content.

Our current crop of 20 Twitter user accounts are providing free SMS/IM updates on topics ranging from sports, to business, to breaking news, all with tinyurl links to the original story content. I’m now trying to find time to play around with a Facebook page for The Courier Mail, although I rarely have any spare hours at home to spend doing that.

During the process of setting up these Twitter accounts, I did a search to see if other Australian news outlets were already using Twitter.

Of News Limited mastheads, apart from The Courier Mail, none of the other existing News Ltd Twitter users have posted.
Of Fairfax mastheads, only The Age has a single feed, last updated in May 2007.
The ABC has two feeds – one of which I follow to receive local news alerts on my mobile phone.

An informal audit of a selection of Australian media and their Twitter presence

Fairfax Digital logoFairfax masthead sites

ABC News - logoABC News

News Digital Media - News Limited logoNews Limited masthead sites

I am assuming the unused Twitter accounts above belong to these publications, but it’s entirely possible someone could simply be ‘squatting’ on the Twitter user names.

A search for “news” in Twitter, yields a lot of results. Here are just a few (listed as their Twitter user name) that may be of interest – financialtimes, npr news, cbcnews, wired, ITN_NEWS, BBC, SkyNewsBusiness, indianews, SkyNews, and CNETNews.

In the UK, the BBC and Sky have a larger selection of Twitter updates that can be followed.


The 2007 federal election was approaching when I was working on the Courier Mail Twitter accounts so, having already written a story about politics and social networking, I had a look at what political parties had on Twitter.

At the time the results were:
Greens: http://twitter.com/Greens
Three updates in total, all on August 2, 2007, that are worth mentioning.

The Greens have established a twitter and are testing it.
04:11 PM August 02, 2007
Do you receive my Greens twitter?
04:26 PM August 02, 2007
Hrrrmmm, if I was 14 I’d know exactly what would happen
06:39 PM August 02, 2007

Liberal (both spoofs)
http://twitter.com/johnhoward
http://twitter.com/johnhowardfacts
Labor: none
Democrats: none
Nationals: none

In 2008, however, the Greens seem to have got their act together with a Twitter page feeding from the Greens Blog website.
https://twitter.com/greensblog

I also didn’t find this during the election last year , but https://twitter.com/kevinrudd is another spoof Twitter account.