Monday, March 26, 2007

Looking for the future of news

This post does a roundup of what’s next for print newspapers (& journalists) and what they must do to survive.

To start: Isn’t it fitting that it is Tim O’Reilly, the man credited with inventing the Web 2.0 idea, who wrote about rumored trouble at the San Francisco Chronicle? This in turn has started a flurry of opinions and suggestions in the blogosphere about what holds next for the traditional newspaper business.

Don't worry.Keep on with the good stuff

Mathew Ingram says:
Print may be dying, but the news is not.

What he means: There will always be buyers for quality news analysis, opinion and extras (multimedia, etc.)

How Newspapers can improve
Doc Searls has a list of suggestions for newspapers to improve. These three are most useful:

- open up the archives. Stop putting tomorrow's fishwrap behind paywalls

- Start following, and linking to, local bloggers and even competing papers (such as the local arts weeklies)

- Get citizen journalists of the locality involved on you site. Start experiments in ProAm journalism like Wired’s Assignment Zero.

- Have an All devices approach. Make your data available seamlessly across multiple platforms. For example, mobile versions like Digg River.

Ryan Sholin echoes Doc Searls.
The two obstacles to improving online newspapers, according to Ryan are:
1. We don’t link enough.
2. We don’t bring local bloggers into the fold.

Free Classifieds, with a twist
Scott Carp goes a little further. He encourages newspapers to indulge in some Creative Destruction.

He suggests that Newspaper solicit free classifieds from citizens - maybe some revenue sharing – it is still not clear how Scott wants it to be carried out:

We…celebrate the rise of blogging as citizen journalism and Craigslist as self-service advertising,

But I wonder what would happen if newspapers introduced a new factor into the equation: the civic benefit of supporting local journalism.

Imagine that you decided to post your classified listing with your local newspaper rather than with Craigslist because you knew it would support the work of local journalists who help make your locality a better place.

In July last year, Scott had suggested the idea that Newspapers should follow the Non-profit lead of NPR and work on donation drives, or something BBC (tax on televisions and radios).

The Guardian (U.K.) and the Christian Science Monitor are supported by non-profits. (Via the Economist)

The future of newspapers
In August 2006, The Economist wrote extensively on the future of newspapers and predicted that one day:

1. An elite group of serious newspapers available everywhere online, independent journalism backed by charities, thousands of fired-up bloggers and well-informed citizen journalists.

2. Publications like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal should be able to put up the price of their journalism to compensate for advertising revenues lost to the internet—especially as they cater to a more global readership. As with many industries, it is those in the middle—neither highbrow, nor entertainingly populist—that are likeliest to fall by the wayside.

3. For hard-news reporting—as opposed to comment—the results of net journalism have admittedly been limited. Most bloggers operate from their armchairs, not the frontline, and citizen journalists tend to stick to local matters.

4. In future, some high-quality journalism will also be backed by non-profit organizations.

Another Probable model:
Free commodity news supported by ads for a younger audience.
Paid premium news analysis and opinion, customized according to reader preferences.

Mark Glaser at Mediashift has aggregated some great ideas as well.

The Three online news models
He quotes Richard Sambrook, director of BBC Global News:

Currently most models for news online fall into one of three categories: Aggregators of other people’s content (Google News,; social functionality around news, including self-generated content (Newsvine, Digg); and traditional news organizations migrating online (BBC, Guardian, New York Times — and I would include Yahoo in this category given the way they operate). The boundaries between them are grey and some are trying to integrate the characteristics of more than one category — but there is no compelling site which delivers all three as yet…I think it’s right that we are only just beginning to re-imagine the role of journalism in the age of online information.

The 'broadcast mode' problem
Mark quotes Tom Abate:
The problem is that journalists think in “broadcast mode” and not in an interactive mode with their audience:

Mass Media as forums
Mark Glaser suggests:
If mass media are to survive I think they will have to become forums where professional journalists frame issues, stakeholders argue the nuances and policy makers surf the results and, one would hope, make better decisions.

Mark also looks at the mammoth State of the Media Report.

Charging aggregators is backward thinking
Reasoning that ‘News creators overestimate the value of their content online', Mark disagrees with Project on Excellence in Journalism, the creators of the State of the Media report when they propose that ‘the best online revenue model was to create content licensing consortiums (CLCs) which would charge ISPs and aggregators fees for content usage.

Look forward. The News aggregators are your friend. Don't follow your friends in Belgium.

Search is the new journalism

Greg Jarboe at Search Engine Watch (Via Mark, again) picked the best part of advice in the State Of Media report:
The press is no longer gatekeeper over what the public knows. Journalists have reacted relatively slowly. They are only now beginning to re-imagine their role. Their companies failed to see “search” as a kind of journalism.’”

I agree. On the net, your data is open for view for a global audience.

Over-importance of Digg
Mark says what I have been saying all this while about what is wrong about Digg:
Digg is democracy in action for an incredibly small segment of society, judging from the overwhelmingly tech-oriented content. It’s funny that the MSM is criticized so much for being ‘elitist.’ Digg also represents the priorities of a small privileged minority, even if the system is open to anyone.

How can journalists cope with the online onslaught?

Learn it. Do it.

Mindy McAdams has a great post, where she advises Journalists to go out and start trying the new Web 2.0 tools.

The New Journalism 101
Larry Dignan has a four-point formula on what the modern Journalist should be taught:

1. Teach entrepreneurship (learning from Om Malik, Robert Scoble, Michael Arrington, Jason Calacanis, Nick Denton, Raft Ali)
2. Embed online tools throughout the curriculum (blogs, podcasts, forums, etc.)
3. Get real pros to teach you: ( the likes of Rob Curley must also come into teaching)
4. Remember the basics: because, real reporting still matters.

Journalists have to keep in mind that as pressures on the papers mount, they will start slashing staff.

In fact, you should know that even the nascent blog networks/spam blog networks work on this price factor all the time. They are always on the lookout for the cheapest writer and editor.

It won't take long for newspapers to follow - in that case, your skills, adaptability and experience will come in use.

The quick and dirty shall win
Newspapers must adapt quickly, for according to the sage pf Omaha, Warren Buffet, they are going downwards on the south slope of Mount Everest):

What multiple should you for a company that earns $100 million per year whose earnings are falling by 5% per year rather than rising by 5% per year? Newspapers face the prospect of seeing their earnings erode indefinitely. It’s unlikely that at most papers, circulation or ad pages will be larger in five years than they are now. That’s even true in cities that are growing.
- at Hypergene, (thanks to Stowe Boyd)

Micropayments: in or out?
Tim O’ Reilly thinks Micropayments (supported by something like Google Checkout) are a way to go for Newspapers.

However, I think people still think micropayments are not use-friendly (too many clicks) and that user may only pay for stuff especially marked ‘Special’ – compilations, customized collection of favorite front pages and so on.

Publishers will have to be creative when they choose micropayments. Too much user-distraction at the moment.

Related coverage on MediaVidea

A short primer to building great news sites

Creating the ultimate news site

7 reasons why Google should buy The New York Times

Video blogging 101

The Best blog in the world and lessons for citizen journalism

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At 7:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if Rafat Ali will ever conduct Journalism 101 classes.

At 6:16 AM , Blogger Javier Marti said...

I am Javier, the founder of, the fastest growing community of amateur writers writing about The Future of everything. We would like to invite you to join us and write an article on the website, perhaps "The future of newspapers" or on anything you are passionate about...
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And yes, I know you may not have the time. Theoretically, none of us do...;)

Failing that, if you like the project and you can help us spread the word -even if you don't write- it would be great.
Since we are starting, any help is appreciated.

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And you could do your bit for the world too, by sharing what you know, as we already do.

Please let us know if you link or mention us, so we can link you back too if you wish.
You can even use our valuable articles on your websites, provided that you link back. Any better offer than that?! :)

Look forward to hearing from you or reading your interesting article at Trendirama!

Best regards
Javier Marti

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