Newsnight – future of the media

February 23rd, 2011 by Jon Clements


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!

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

7 Responses to “Newsnight – future of the media”

  1. Twitter Trackbacks for Newsnight - future of the media » [] on Says:

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  2. Stuart Bruce Says:

    Despite all my ‘online-ness’ I still prefer a proper newspaper. There is no way you can get the same feel for the prominence of stories etc when it is online. Online you are also far less likely to stumble across news stories and articles that normally wouldn’t be of interest, but do catch your eye on the page. Unfortunately it’s getting far too hard to actually get the physical newspaper. Our village no longer has a paper delivery from the local newsagent (as it’s closed) and the one further away says there aren’t enough people in the village who are interested. Which isn’t actually true as you have to go to considerable trouble to actually find the alternative newsagent, an effort most people wouldn’t go through. Our house used to get three papers a day and four on Sunday. That’s now down to zero, but not because we don’t want them. Count just one paper per household across just our village and then the nation and it’s a hell of a lot of papers.

  3. Jon Clements Says:

    Thanks for your comment and “view from the village”!
    I would hazard a guess that most people’s time is increasingly under pressure, making it more difficult to find the space in the day to browse newspapers – even one quality newspaper on a Saturday or Sunday – and randomly focus on topics outside one’s normal area of interest. I feel the web – and particularly RSS and search – has intensified our focus on preferred topics at the expense of a broad appreciation of what’s happening “out there”. Unless one has a clear loyalty to a publication, online or in print, the news experience tends to be filtered by Google.

  4. How journalists get sources using Twitter « Twitter and Media Says:

    […] Newsnight – future of the media ( […]

  5. Jamie Gavin Says:

    It is so good to finally see these issues being debated so openly and in such a mainstream forum.

    Alan Rusbridger’s remarks about the newspaper being a “Victorian method” of distribution are spot on. Because of the romance associated with 200 years of consuming news via print, we have become obsessed with the platform rather than the content, but the latter should be the focal point for press and PR companies, whatever the distribution mechanism.

    During my time at the UK magazine association, we worked hard to reposition the image of the traditional magazine as a multi-platform medium that is not solely dependent upon print. Now it seems that the newspaper industry also is finally publically acknowledging this divergence.

    The media is changing, mass-dividing and pro-creating to form new and exciting methods of delivery – the key is making these channels work for you in a way that continues to draw consumers back to quality content.

  6. Hannah Collins Says:

    The future of Newspapers is a debate that shall be around for a while with strong arguments from both sides.
    There are many valid points made in this News Night episode, I think many people including myself like to be able to hold a newspaper. Whilst it is easy and handy to get news via smart phones in the rush of the week, nothing beats a weekend paper enjoyed on a Saturday or Sunday morning with a cup of coffee.
    The Newspaper industry is one that has been around for decades and although there is of course profit of online Newspapers, I think the history of Newspapers is far too great to rid of them altogether.

  7. Amerdeep Mann Says:

    I personally think newspapers are becoming something vintage rather than the primary source of information. Newspapers are bought by committed readers whereas many others will find news out via the internet, I find out all news from Twitter, Facebook or The deaths of any famous people, any disasters that have occurred such as the recent tsunami tragedy in Japan I have found out from the internet, not newspapers. I agree with the comment “I don’t have to know it the second it happens” yet wit the internet we can find out information instantly. Regarding the popularity of newspapers becoming scarce, there will always be people who love newspapers and enjoy reading them over finding information out on the internet. However, using the internet as a medium for news will be beneficial to journalists as they can use it to reach out to a wider audience. Also, technology is shifting and advancing and so people need to accept and understand it is inevitable, change is inevitable. The internet is easier to access than going to buy a newspaper to find out news but newspapers will always have their value as they were the initial source of information for people from the Victorian times.

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