Perhaps the editor of a newspaper that is haemorrhaging £100,000 a day isn’t the best person to listen to on the future of journalism but Alan Rusbridger raises some great points, and misses some.
It is inevitable that the traditional national and local media will contract. We will see a large national player, possibly The Guardian, go under as the industry battles to try and find a way to make journalism pay. There will certainly be many failed experiments before the right model is found.
The platform on which we consume content may be the way journalism is saved. Ask people whether they would pay to access a news website and the overwhelming majority will say no, not that it’ll stop News Corp trying. But offer people a convenient way to access content on a mobile device, such as an iPhone app or the Kindle e-book reader, and people are much more willing to pay for it. They won’t pay 40p to £1 a day to access it but with the decreased overheads that a digital delivery platform provides, the newspapers won’t need to generate that.
Social Media & Citizen Journalism
Despite what many commentators say social media is not the future of journalism, but it will augment with traditional journalism to improve it. Twitter is a great tool but it will never replace reading an article. We’d all have terribly uninformed views of events if we relied solely on eye witness accounts, the skill of the journalist is to find the story among the facts. Something social media platforms can’t deliver.
Likewise too much is made of citizen journalism. Citizens can report what they see and easily publish or upload their information but what they can’t offer is the big picture or context. Citizen journalism provided a wealth of information, pictures, video and audio when the G20 protests and riots occurred, but it took experienced and trained journalists to analyse that information and assemble the big picture.
Hyperlocal websites are an idea that is really starting to catch on. This is a focus on news within communities, limited to small areas such as a couple of postcodes. This is largely done at a grassroots level and in competition with the traditional local media.
The benefits of hyperlocal journalism are smaller overheads, closer ties with the community and importantly much more targeted advertising. A hyperlocal site may only need a handful of contributors, but if a site can get a readership in the tens of thousands in a very small area the targeted advertising opportunities for local businesses are great.
It’s a direct threat to traditional local journalism which people feel increasingly disconnected from. A hyperlocal site can create content that engages much more with the community and can deliver it on a multimedia platform. Your local area may only be mentioned on regional TV news once in a blue moon, yet it’s relatively inexpensive for the hyperlocal journalist to create community video news and distribute it online.
That ultimately is what the future of journalism needs, engagement with the readership or audience. Specialist content delivered in bespoke ways to suit each person. Traditional media will need to learn from the hyperlocal to forge stronger relationships with its audience.