Launching a debate on the future of the media last night, Newsnight anchor, Jeremy Paxman, asked the question troubling newspaper publishers in mature markets the world over – is it worth printing a newspaper at all?
Cut to reporter David Grossman on an early morning newspaper delivery round, where the number of rounds have been cut from 10 to 5.
Grossman’s voiceover mused that the newspaper’s business model is “approaching its twilight”, with its remaining advocates among the public (albeit a sample of two in his report) similarly entering their latter years. One woman gets a paper as she hasn’t got the internet while a second likes to have the news in print – “to be able to touch it” and resistant to the lure of news breaking instantly, in the vein of Twitter: “I don’t have to know it the second it happens.”
Back to the studio, we were treated to the insight of various media luminaries, whose organisations are each exerting their own distinct influence on the future of media.
Here are highlights of what they said:
Lionel Barber – Editor, FT
- - “What matters is first class content. Web traffic is going up.”
- - “Google changed its attitude – it recognised that it [journalism] costs and adapted the model to allow paywalls to exist.”
- - “The growth of subscription business – you know your customer.”
Peter Barron – Director of External Relations, Google
- - “We make our money from commercial services. [And we are] sending clicks through to newspapers. A billion clicks per month.”
- - “There’s no simple silver bullet – we’re in a period of experimentation. One Pass – trying to give a flexible means of setting up a payment system.”
Alan Rusbridger – Editor, The Guardian
- - “The newspaper has had two centuries – it is a Victorian method while the opportunity for journalism digitally is huge.”
- - “The BBC does distort the market – I resent and admire the BBC at the same time.”
- - “We made £30m in digital revenues last year reaching more people than ever before. Influence and reach of the paper will create real influence and value.”
Mark Thompson – Director General, BBC
- - “No one medium is enough. Majority of people using BBC website want it to be free.”
- - “14m click-throughs from the BBC to national newspaper sites.”
The programme then turned its light on citizen journalists, with chief sceptic, the Economist’s Anne McElvoy, taking on the enthusiastic digital amateurs:
She argued that fewer professional journalists and the emergence of new media journalism was putting quality journalism at risk.
She also reiterated the importance of journalistic skills in unravelling the wealth of information and news stories contained within the Wikileaks documents, which would be otherwise indigestible.
Conversely, Future Publishing boss, Mark Wood, noted that good writers are taking command of the new media, citing Stephen Fry on Twitter as one of the world’s funniest commentators on new tech.
Once again, back to the studio to get the views of the media bosses:
- - “At its best it’s a craft – testing multiple sources and revise for accuracy: that’s journalism.”
- - “Journalists have lost their place as gatekeepers but are not redundant.”
- - “Deep and original journalism costs money and takes time. It’s a world apart from Facebook and Twitter which is social interaction.”
- - “Journalism is extremely valuable – the point is the massive democratisation of information and the ability to publish information. High quality material rises to the top.”
- - “Wikileaks would have been completely unsafe just dumped on the Internet.”
- - “These tools we’ve had for 200 years – there are real experts out there who are every bit as good as journalists.”
- - “Citizen journalism is valuable but cannot substitute for the classical skills of journalism. Together they have enriched the way the news works.”
So there you have it. There appears to be life in the old journalistic dog yet!