Paying for News?

After the huge financial losses just announced by News Corp, Murdoch has decreed that, probably from next year, he will charge for all his newspaper websites including The Times and The Sun. It is not clear whether this will extend to broadcast news websites such as Sky News.

It has been clear for some time that the newspaper industry is at a crossroads. The old model of drawing in as much traffic as possible to gain revenue from display advertising has been found to be unsustainable and further to News Corp, the Telegraph, Guardian and Mirror Groups have all mooted charging for content but as Michael Beecroft, head of digital trading at Mediaedge:cia Global, concedes: "In many ways the horse has already bolted, and trying to close the door on it now will be very tricky indeed."

This model work for some specialist content, such as the FT or the Media section of The Guardian, but in general why would anyone pay for content they can get for free elsewhere?

Murdoch, Sly Bailey and others speak about how quality journalism is not cheap but what denotes “quality” and who is the judge of that other than the audience? In a world where the media landscape is increasingly fragmenting, why would you pay for frontline heavyweight news items when the BBC will always provide that for free? And when it comes to the so called celebrity ‘news’ that the tabloids pedal so well, why would you pay for The Sun when you can go to Perez Hilton? Why go to newspapers for sport news when you can go to Cricinfo, Football 365 or Planet Rugby?

Even most of the content from the Guardian’s Media section can also be found with a subscription to the NMA or Media Week.

Just last week, Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired said in an interview to German news website Spiegel:

“In the past, the media was a full-time job. But maybe the media is going to be a part time job. Maybe media won't be a job at all, but will instead be a hobby. There is no law that says that industries have to remain at any given size. Once there were blacksmiths and there were steel workers, but things change. The question is not should journalists have jobs. The question is can people get the information they want, the way they want it? The marketplace will sort this out. If we continue to add value to the Internet we'll find a way to make money. But not everything we do has to make money.”

The UK has always had more national newspapers than any other country, and the arrival of digital has just exacerbated the situation to the point where the market is unbearably crowded.

The Independent, with the lowest readership of any national, has been under threat for some time following huge losses with the Daily Mail & General Trust rumoured to be interested in rescuing it, though the lack of such a move so far probably says more about The Independent that anything else.

Moreover, The Observer, the oldest Sunday newspaper in the UK, published since 1791, is facing the threat of either closure by the Guardian Media Group or being re formatted into a weekly magazine following similar heavy losses as suffered by the other papers. As a dedicated Observer reader, I would find this extremely sad, more so as no other Sunday paper quite caters for the same readership (though this may yet be its saving grace- Guardian Media Group is owned by a not-quite-for-profit organisation for a reason) but we all should come to the realization that in the next ten years a lot of household newspaper names will either change beyond recognition or disappear completely.


zion said...
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zion said...
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