With all the talk about whether the content of newspapers is of a quality the public will be willing to pay for online, it took a search of our paper’s archives recently to remind me that … it is. It’s not necessarily the quality of the individual story (although that’s obviously there), but of the narrative – the archive – that presents an ongoing and valuable commodity.
A mistake of mainstream media has been to ignore and devalue that content.
So if there’s going to be a paywall, maybe it should be for archived content. Not just archived material that you can do a text search on, but a powerful database of related, interwoven “smart” content. At the moment that’s largely unavailable. Allow users to follow the background story, or stories, that give context to the current revision, whether that history is contained in text, image, audio or video content.
As such, it equally applies to any media, or content creator, but this particular post approaches it from the mindset of print.
I had reason to search NewsText, a database of newspaper archives, for the entire history of the Queensland Government’s lobbyist issue, where former government ministers were representing lobbying firms on development projects. During the search I saw clearly the linear progression and connectedness of these articles across months, even years, all presented chronologically. It’s there without tags or related story linking, just a regular text search. Where the authors were different, and in some cases even the publication, the full story still unfolded.
But that linear value is completely lost, both in the newspaper because it isn’t possible, and online when it isn’t utilised. In the newspaper it’s only possible to read each article as a standalone piece, without reference or even knowledge of the wealth of background to the story, or the ongoing work a publication or journalist has devoted to covering that story.
There is the capability to do it online but, in most cases, it’s not being done. People can currently pay for this archival content, with access to historical textual news searches through services like NewsText or Lexis Nexis, but the ability to do that should be provided online from the originating news source.
And why not monetise it?
It’s not like it’s a service offered now and, like academic articles, it could provide a story précis or the context in which the search terms are contained. Some kind of context would help the consumer decide if they want to pay for the entire article, or a sequence of related articles and/or other media content.
If it’s done it shouldn’t be prohibitive to pay for articles. Ease of access is the barrier to overcome, and anything over just a few cents per article would quickly become prohibitively expensive.
You only pay $1.69 AU ($0.99 US) for a song on iTunes, and the whole point of that purchase is to have a product you can use (listen to) again and again. Most people who purchase an article don’t intend to use it over and over again. It’s a one time, single use purchase – generally for reference only and a cheap price should reflect that.
It’s wrong that newspapers and other content creators didn’t start doing this much earlier, or adopt the best practices of somebody who has figured it out. It’s not just another “related articles” plugin, although it includes that, but a seriously robust system that makes the archive useful. Content on news media sites is archived online but, if it wasn’t for Google, it would be nigh on impossible to actually find it.
Everyone has failed at converting content to the web and leveraging the value of their archives. Not just mainstream media. Everybody.
The Journalists Formerly Known as the Media: My Advice to the Next Generation – Jay Rosen: Public Notebook
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.
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.
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.”
- AP’s Online Strategy » Nieman Journalism Lab
- Why I believe in the link economy (Chris Ahearn, President, Media at Thomson Reuters)
- Will Rupert Murdoch Lead Way for Paid Online Content? – TIME
[“the pay wall would have destroyed them. Or cured them”]
- Economics for CEO dummies – The Future of Journalism – Open Salon
[“He made an unfortunately apt comparison between a stale bagel and his newspapers”]
- Pitfalls of the pay wall | Knight Digital Media Center
[“Before they jump into charging for content, news organizations must bypass the quality journalism argument and answer these five questions instead”]
- Rupert Murdoch’s move to charge for content opens doors for competitors | Media | The Guardian
- Economists on pay-per-view online print news – Terry Flew from QUT
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.
A single copy of the “Smart Edition”, as it will be called, will cost $2, or subscriptions of one month, six months or one year can also be paid for either the weekday or weekend product, or a combination of the two.
Who else can have an opinion on Clay Shirky’s Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable? Me, apparently, but maybe I’m coming at it from a different angle. When thinking of a business model destroyed, the first thing that came to mind was recent discussions about the individual as a brand. Specifically Andy Dickinson’s contribution to the Carnival of Journalism in December 2008, where he said 2009 is the year of the individual journalist. I’m not suggesting I have any answers, but here’s one of those fanciful theories: Maybe the individual as a brand can sustain news beyond “The Unthinkable”.
The arrogance of mainstream media, QR codes a new business model?, and all the tools you’ll ever need
Image via Wikipedia
Deconstructing the “real journalism” argument
Terry Heaton takes a shot at the unending “woe, the internetz!” cries of mainstream media.
“we’d get a lot further in the reinvention of professional journalism if we could get away from the belief that its an entitlement, one that’s necessary for the survival of the species […]
“Who do we think we are? Surely our hubris has blinded us, for professional journalism never was God’s gift to culture […] We have done some good things, but our arrogance was our undoing. That arrogance is behind the notions that ‘real journalism’ can’t be practiced outside the paradigm of contemporary professional news.”
(tags: online mediaindustry journalism media)
Why media companies are hosed
“Wal-Mart is a media site in that it sells its reach to advertisers, a reach that vastly exceeds two of the top newspaper sites in the world. This is why I keep harping on everybody that the future for local media companies lies beyond their own walled garden websites, and those who refuse to hear that (like, everybody) are sprinting to the tar pits.”
And an interesting viewpoint in the comments, suggesting QR codes could be the way of the future for cut-sized newspapers, providing direct mobile links to the full content.
“Sooner or later, some newspaper people are going to figure out that the way to go is a 16- 24 page paper that mostly serves as a table of contents for info on the web.”
(tags: mediaindustry future mobile qrcodes)
Tools for News
A huge collection of “Tool kits” for everything you need for online content creation, whether you call yourself a digital journalist, online journalist, or you create content for family, friends or any other community you’re a part of.
Check it out and get creative.
(tags: digital howto newmedia tools reporting tutorial)
Originally from my auto-posting daily Delicious links, I have cut this back to just a few links I have added comment to and that I think particularly useful. I have also retitled the post. This is in preparation for a blog redesign, where I no longer want posts titled “links for YYYY-MM-DD”. A live stream of Delicious links will also always be available in a sidebar widget and/or stand-alone page.
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I’m not going to go into the Future of Journalism conference last Saturday in any great detail.
There is a post on the Future of Journalism’s Wired Scribe blog with a roundup of several good links to posts by people who were observers and panelists on the day. Interested people can read a roundup there.
You can also read through the live Future of Journalism tweets from various people on the day.
What I’m providing here is just a quick video of a question I asked of news.com.au editor David Higgins about the use of social networking tools for newsgathering.
Video after the jump…
Image by mushon via Flickr
I’m all for mobile news-particularly as it relates to providing information in developing countries-but at this early stage I would say mobile is going to be part of a resurrection of local news providers.Uptake could be too slow to save the paper
Help Dave Cohn take “Journalism” out of his blog description.
“I don’t care about that word [“Journalism”] persay. What I care about is the open and honest exchange of information, as I believe THAT’S what is needed to keep a democracy strong.”
I somewhat agree-I just can’t see chiefs of staff seeing it as anything other than a waste of time – could also be legal issues.
“Each reporter should take responsibility for the comments on[their]stories and[.]be encouraged to actively participate[.]”
Training then needs implementation.
“The best multimedia journalists are sometimes those who take it upon themselves to learn […] The online revolution[.]will never happen unless […] organizations make a financial commitment to training their existing staff”
Video has archive value too-don’t hide it!
“archive video to create a long-tail business[.]Broadcasting is so accustomed to the idea of instant obsolescence (what we do today doesnâ€™t matter tomorrow) that we miss opportunities for niche videos”
Originally from my auto-posting daily Delicious links, I have cut this back to just a few links I have added comment to or that I think particularly useful. I have also retitled the post. This is in preparation for a blog redesign, where I no longer want posts titled “links for YYYY-MM-DD”. A live stream of Delicious links will also always be available in a sidebar widget and/or stand-alone page.
Print circulation showed another dramatic decline in the US in figures released on Monday.
The industry’s most pressing problem isn’t the state of print circulation, which has been in decline since the mid-1980s. Instead, it is figuring out how to generate more advertising revenue from both its shrinking but still lucrative print product and its growing online properties.
Is it the beginning of the end for newspapers? Not likely, since dropping circulation has been ‘the beginning of the end’ for the last 20 years according to Hau’s quote above.
It’s just the beginning. Smaller community newspapers will continue to provide local news, including in a web presence. Larger metropolitan dailies may become media outlets, of which their newspaper is a component of the news distribution methods they offer, rather than their defining characteristic.
Until someone comes up with an effective monetisation strategy for web and mobile content that can either match current print advertising revenue, or at the very least break even, the doom and gloom outlook for newspapers will continue.
Sourced from Romenesko:
Print newspaper circulation continues on its steep downward slide
Editor & Publisher
Some ABC FAS-FAX numbers for the six-month period ending March 31, 2008:
* New York Times down 9.2% on Sunday, 3.8% daily
* Washington Post down 4.3% on Sunday, 3.5% daily
* Wall Street Journal up 0.3
* Los Angeles down 6% on Sunday, 5.1% daily
* USA Today up .27% to 2,284,219
* Boston Globe down 6.4% on Sunday, 8.3% daily
> How the top 25 daily newspapers performed in the FAS-FAX report (E&P)
> Louis Hau: Why circulation declines aren’t a wholly reliable barometer of overall performance. (Forbes)
The CIA may not hold the same respect they once had, but you must admit their intelligence-gathering techniques must still be superior to either yours or mine.
The CIA have said newspapers have not just become less important as a source of information, but are in freefall when compared to the growing importance of online information gathering.
From Doug Naikin, director of the CIA’s Open Source Center (OSC), formerly the Foreign Broadcast Information Service which was tasked to collect and analyse public information, comes the following.
What we’re seeing [in] actuality is a decline, a relatively rapid decline, in the impact of the printed press – traditional media.
A lot more is digital, and a lot more is online. It’s also a lot more social. Interaction is a much bigger part of media and news than it used to be.
So watch out. The CIA is trawling your Facebook, Myspace, YouTube and any other social networking media you can think of. Just don’t say the ‘B’ word.
On 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?
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.
The 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.
I 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.
Fairfax masthead sites
- Sydney Morning Herald – none, although there is a user account for an SMH columnist
https://twitter.com/samanthabrett – last and only update May 2007
- The Age – http://twitter.com/theage – last update May 2007
- Brisbane Times – none
- http://twitter.com/abcnewsbrisbane – regularly updated through day
- http://twitter.com/abcnews – regularly updated through day
- http://twitter.com/abcrn – ABC Radio National – deleted since December
- http://twitter.com/abctv – an example of a squatter. Two updates, one of which is “can’t believe this one wasn’t taken”.
News Limited masthead sites
- The Australian – https://twitter.com/theaustralian – never updated
- The Daily Telegraph – https://twitter.com/dailytelegraph – never updated
- The Herald Sun – http://twitter.com/heraldsun – never updated
- AdelaideNow – https://twitter.com/adelaidenow – never updated
- PerthNow – https://twitter.com/perthnow – never updated
- The Mercury – https://twitter.com/themercury – never updated
- NT News – none
- The Courier Mail – 20 Twitter accounts (as at January 31, 2008) updated whenever new content available on site
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:
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
In 2008, however, the Greens seem to have got their act together with a Twitter page feeding from the Greens Blog website.
I also didn’t find this during the election last year , but https://twitter.com/kevinrudd is another spoof Twitter account.