How to save your newspaper

February 12, 2009

Great article here from Walter Isaacson on the pros and cons (mainly cons, as he sees it) of publishers providing free quality journalism content online, and how this has contributed to the continuing woes of newspapers.

The main issue, of course, has been the drip drip drip of editorial job losses, and this is something which will not be resolved during the current economic conditions: as long as fear exists, publishing executives will, it seems, continue to cut journalistic jobs and hope the sales teams shape up. What happens? We know the actual result.

One of Isaacson’s comments goe:

“This is not a business model that makes sense. Perhaps it appeared to when Web advertising was booming and every half-sentient publisher could pretend to be among the clan who “got it” by chanting the mantra that the ad-supported Web was ‘the future’. But when Web advertising declined in the fourth quarter of 2008, free felt like the future of journalism only in the sense that a steep cliff is the future for a herd of lemmings.”

Isaacson also points out, and rightly so, that the free content business model relies solely on advertising to generate revenues, whereas traditional newspaper income streams derive from ads, subscriptions and news-stand sales – at least increasing potential earnings from two other sources. Crucial at the moment!

If saving your newspaper became a battle to save a sales Team, perhaps the Executives would take the business models a bit more seriously. It seems that journalists are a liability because they do not directly add cash onto the weekly and monthly sales targets.

Can’t we look at the bigger picture and see the inherent value of editorial content before more newspapers sink?

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2 Responses to “How to save your newspaper”

  1. Content is king and there is a firm in Salford providing tailor-made ‘content’ to websites, a room full of Web re-writers. Is this what journalism will become?

  2. bristoleditor said

    Hi Jez

    Hope you’re well and thanks for the comment.

    It is hard to predict, of course, what will happen in coming months regarding the future of commercial copywriting and pure journalism.

    What is clear, particularly under current economic conditions and continued editorial cutbacks, is that the line between commercial copywriting and pure journalism is thinner than any time I can recall after 11 years in newsrooms across the UK.

    I remember editing at Central Press Features, part of the Northcliffe Group, and we pretty much produced tailor-made copy there – which was sold onto a number of sources worldwide. It was journalistic research, combined with commercial copywriting for the ad teams. Tough!

    I guess the differences between the two will continue to blur as the Web demands more and more content: there have been attempts to streamline and use the same content in different mediums of course, but where pure journalism will go remains something of a mystery.

    Let’s hope it is a positive, natural, professional and untainted progression.

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