The new Sun on Sunday has come under a lot of flack. It has been criticised for the lack of investigative news reporting its deceased sibling, the News of the World, featured (albeit what the NOTW investigated and how they did this was open to question). People are saying it is more like a magazine than a newspaper. I think this criticism is misplaced. The Sun on Sunday is an illustration of the future of newspapers: i.e. the separation of news from the distribution mechanism that is newsprint (in line with fundamental trend inherent in the social media revolution, which is the separation of content from its means of distribution).
All newspapers face a fundamental and painful choice: they either stick with the news (content) which means they will have to separate themselves from the distribution mechanism of newsprint, or else they stick with printed paper and change the content to that which is better adapted to work in this distribution medium. And magazine type content is better adapted to print than is news. The problem for the Sunday Sun is that magazines are better adapted to be …err… magazines, than tabloid newsprint.
Today The Times launched its new online edition, which it will effectively be closing again late June when it starts to ask people to pay for it. Times editor, James Harding, was interviewed this morning on the Today programme desperately trying to justify how initiatives such as this represented the salvation of journalism and reporting.
Laying aside the nature of the journalism and reporting that such an initiative is expected to preserve and also the arrogance in many of the assertions that Harding made that essentially implied that news just can’t happen unless some bloke with a notebook is there to ‘make sense of it’, there is a huge flaw in the thinking that upon which the whole paid-for content approach is based. This flaw is the unquestioned assumption that journalism and journalist are one and the same. Or to put it another way, the only way that journalism can be achieved is through the institutional structures of one-to-many mass media. Continue reading
The Guardian has made an entry into the paid-for content space. Called Extra it is, as the name suggested, the on-line Guardian with a little bit extra, for which you will be expected to part with £25 annually. It is interesting and innovative, as one might expect from the Guardian – but it won’t work as a model for how what we currently call a newspaper (even an on-line, multimedia newspaper) can operate in the social media world.
The reason for this is that its ethos and economic model is still fundamentally rooted in Gutenberg economics. It is still all about producing content – but in a way that doffs its cap to what editor Alan Rusbridger calls web2.0 by in his words “involving the readers in what we do“.
Clang! What “we” do is not what it is about anymore. In the social media world, content is not a finished product it is only a raw material. The “reader” as some still might like to call them, is the only person responsible for a finished product. It is therefore not a case of “involving the readers in what we do” – it works the other way round. The Guardian needs to create the permission to be involved in what the readers do. Continue reading
This is something I’ve not done before – posting a comment. But hey, it took a while to write and the social media revolution is all about the separation of information from a dedicated means of distribution, so that’s alright then.
The comment was on a post by Dan Gillmor, which was really just a link to Alan Rusbridger’s recent speech about the future of journalism. I think my comment makes sense without first reading the speech – but I recommend you do read it. It is very good, albeit a speech that doesn’t really nail the answer – probably because the answer involves arriving at the conclusion that journalists have little role in the future of journalism.
Here is my comment. Continue reading