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7 October 2008

Death of Newspapers - I don't think so ... not quite yet

While I've said before that I think that the imminent death of traditional media, such as newspapers or free-to-air TV, is over-hyped ...   


There was an interesting synopsis of Michael Gawenda's A.N. Smith Lecture in Journalism in the Sydney Morning Herald by about "the need for a new model for newspapers in the digital age" and the butchering of "profitable newspapers".  In this view, recent cuts to editorial staff at Fairfax are the result of "a failure of imagination and commitment, a result of a lack of experience and knowledge and love of newspapers" precipitated by a dramatic fall in advertising revenue. 

However, the simple fact is journalism has never been able to stand alone as a revenue generator - it has always been subsidised by advertising revenue.  This means that readers have rarely been willing to fork out cold hard cash to cover the real cost of creating news.

Now that there are so many other online opportunities for advertisers to reach consumers there is less need to advertise in traditional media (especially print).  Thus we are seeing a shift to digital media channels for advertising.  And, with the economic downturn, marketers will be trying to stretch their advertising dollars even further making digital a more likely choice.

Even rusted on newspaper junkies like me are starting to read the news online (except on weekends when I sit down with the SMH, Oz, FinRev and a pot of coffee).  This just reinforces the advertising revenue drop and the inevitable need to reduce costs for the print version.  Also the drive for cost reduction means we are likely to see more social media & user generated content featuring on the digital news sites, together with raw feeds unedited from news sources such as Reuters. 

In Gawenda's view newspapers "...need to build on their strengths: Forget big headlines and huge and often meaningless graphics. Instead, arresting photography, great illustrations and wonderful editorial cartoons. And stories, well-written and compelling stories, well-edited and with smart and entertaining headlines, if possible, without lousy puns."  I suspect that this is the fond hope of someone who loves the traditional newspaper (in spite of the costs associated with creation of this content) and who remains uncomfortable with new media.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

2 comments:

Geoff McQueen said...

I too read the commentary from the big G. Interesting stuff. I just know that all of the navel gazing and punditry in the world faded to nothing when I discovered SMH on the PDA via Avantgo. Reading the paper any other way now seems a real chore, pot of coffee or not.

Things have moved on, and now there's an m.news.com.au and a mobile.smh.com.au, and the more interesting thing - in my view - is that the mobile SMH site 'hides' the opinion pages; unless you go to mobile.smh.com.au/opinion you never get to see them. And they're usually the most interesting. You've got to wonder why they're hiding them; it surely can't be an accident. Is it some weird experiment in the stickiness of opinion content - the highest form of user generated content really - that they hide it and still see the traffic they get? An opinion piece on greed and the wall st mess got the highest readership on the weekend according to their "most popular" listing, in the mobile portal, even though I don't think you could access it via the mobile portal.

very, very interesting indeed.

Gavin Heaton said...

I read his article yesterday and was less than inspired. There are some good points ... but overall he seems to suggest that we are returning to smaller, quality publications.

Didn't we have one of these -- The Bulletin? Didn't they just close it down?

Until newspapers start to reinvent themselves into something more relevant to their audiences, they will continue to lose market share to the flourishing digital publications.