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.
Image via Wikipedia
- Just F8 and Be There, but faster :: Jim MacMillan: Blogging, News, Information and Opinion from Philadelphia
People need to remember that MSM (mainstream media) need instant photos for online. MSM need to remember they should not just acknowledge the public for these pics, but remunerate where appropriate (exclusive/first). In this example, photos taken on an iPhone (remember, only a 2 megapixel camera) were paid for at the same rate as ‘pro’ photos.
“After I sent another couple of photos, I […] found messages from the editor of philly.com […]. She had seen my Twitter posts and Twitpics, and was interested in getting them.
I let her know that there were other pros working hard on the scene, but the Internet wants breaking news asap and – in a nutshell – she bought my pictures and posted one right away.
I was compensated roughly on the scale that freelancers in this town are paid in traditional scenarios: for responding and shooting with pro-level Nikons or Canons, and delivering their photos via laptops with cell modems.”
Originally from my auto-posting daily Delicious links, I have cut this back to just the link I have added comment to. 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.
Apologies for the infrequency of posts. The site has been undergoing a protracted redesign, and in the process has seen a dramatic decline in its most important aspect – content.
In the meantime, please take a look at one of the new additions, my Reading List, which has been added to the right sidebar.
It’s my selection of the best and most useful content from a wide array of new media blogs and industry sites that I regularly read.
Updated in real time as I hand-select the most valuable content, you can read the best of new media and online news industry content that I would be blogging about if I had the time.
Alternatively, I have also added related post links to the bottom of each individual post page, through which you can delve deeper into this site’s content.