Martin posts a bunch of questions about the future for newspapers with the question What happens to newspapers? for a debate going on right at this very minute in London. It's a topic I've been working on a wee bit lately and I thought I'd have a stab at some answers. This is completely off the top of my head and should be treated as such,
- What is driving change? IT, social trends, competition?
All the above, but declining print sales and advertising revenue would appear to be the key indicators as far as print is concerned.
- What value do people get from newspapers? Has this changed?
Increasingly less sadly. Today's news that the Christian Science Monitor is going to end daily print production is yet another precursor to the end of print. Less people buy and read printed newspapers because they can get more for less – normally nothing – online.
don't have more than two friends that read newspapers. If I wanted news
I'd go online or watch TV, but if there's something really important,
MySpace or Facebook is the last place I'd look because it's mostly
teenagers that post there." link Feb 2007
However, I do think the online experience and the print experience are fundamentally different and online is not always better. It's easier to miss stuff online. Online news junkies don't like speed bumps in their tailored of news and a good print newspaper is packed with them. Yet, it's the speed bumps that often add the most value. It's been said before; the future of the newspaper is news-no-paper,
rather than 'newspapers' because there are going to be so many other
ways that people get their news. link Dec 2006
- How has the moral authority of and trust invested in newspapers changed?
When the New York Times publishes an article posing the question; Is Jon Stewart the most trusted man in news? you know you're working in an industry in trouble. Not just print, but news.
- How is the relationship to broadcasters and other media, local news, wire services changing?
Newspapers are more reliant on wire services, even if some of them are dropping them, because they can't afford to send reporters anywhere to report.
- Who are the new competitors: non-UK newspapers, broadcasters, free
sheets (eg: Metro, Short List), the Drudge Report, Daily Beast,
Huffington Post, DayLife?
Traditional newspapers were slow to figure out how to grab the niche audiences online. They still don't know how to do it. They're still too big.
- Will all content be free and, perhaps, follow music into the ‘loss leader for physical experiences’ model?
Everything will be on the Internet, whether or not it'll be free is another matter. Possibly we'll see more hybrid models – some pay, some free. The only newspaper models that currently work online are paid for models. Although all the media tweaking theoreticians tell us pay for news is not the way to go.
- Why when we are wealthier than ever (OK, were) we have been so reluctant to pay for the products of the news media?
That's a good question… is it because newspapers were so eager to grab a slice of the online world they almost all went free online to build an audience without thinking what audience and how? And if that audience would attract advertising/pay for subs/ all in the hope that eyes would equal dollars? This is still the theory, but not the reality. And highly paid consultants have been saying this for nigh on a decade…
- What new editorial models are being developed: newspaper as curator/aggregator
Some very successful models in the highly niche aggregation sphere with some additional in depth original reporting. I was talking to one of them this morning called FeedInfo. Doing very well indeed.
None of which make any money or not enough money. Loss leaders to garner audience. Failed models if you're looking at this purely from an income perspective.
- What new business models are being developed: commerce related
recommendation, exploiting the distribution chain to attract new forms
of advertising (eg: Observer Sport Monthly), recommending local services
Narrow niches, carved deeply seems to be the way to go. Big newspapers won't survive as the broadbrush doesn't work on the Internet unless it is supported by other revenue streams.
- What technologies do newspaper publishers need, eg: e-paper
RSS feeds, iPhone compatibile site, feeds and blogs. They all need an app like the NYTimes iPhone app.
- What role does quality of experience have in newspapers: increasing materiality of print?
To me, a lot. A few months ago I subscribed to a daily print newspaper – first time since 1987. I don't regret it. I'm more informed. Print gets me out of the goldfish bowl of my work and personal interests. Makes me more globally informed.
- What ideas exist for radical change: oursourcing non-core competencies, etc.
Relocate, outsource, diversify income streams. Maybe The Guardian are onto something with this new Kings Cross place they'll have. Whatever they put on in the venue might help the news end financially at least a wee bit.
- Is there a role for ‘co-opetition’, between established and new/small publication?
I had to look that up… Oh absolutely. It could save some of the more useless big players. We'll see more of the big-media-buyingup-blogs-thing for sure.