05 September 2005

How newspapers deal with the web

How newspapers dealt with the challenge of the internet is quite an interesting story. I'm planning to start producing weekly articles/opinion pieces, and perhaps this will be one of them in a few weeks' time when I have my website (proper) set up.

But in the mean time there's an interesting article in today's Grauniad all about it. How do you counter the fact that news on the web is now free? You give your newspaper away free. Or at least a large chunk of content.

It's a damn good principle - because fundamentally the newspaper is better than the web from the outset. It's a proper tangible product you can hold; it doesn't require power, or starting up, or lugging around in a lap-top case, or a wireless subscription. You can read it anywhere at any time. It even smells nicer. One of the nicest days I had this year was sitting in the sun at Glastonbury reading the newspaper and watching the hippies go by - it was ace. I couldn't do that with a website.

The problem with the competition, of course, came down to money. With content free online, advertising revenues dropped off and so did circulation. I think we'll soon reach a news saturation point online and start to settle into a pattern of loyalty similar to printed news; RSS feeds and blogs may muddy the waters here a little, but I really do think syndication is going to be picked up more on a specialist level (i.e. consumers subscribing to industry news, blogs etc) rather than everyone signing up to international feeds. There's simply too much news. I've signed up to several feeds, and have pretty much started to ignore the BBC one; it's too general and updated too regularly. I honestly think consumers would rather have daily updates than minute-by-minute unless something really big (terrorist attacks, natural disasters, cricket scores) is happening while they watch.

Here's how I want my news: a nice chunk of stuff tailored to me to browse in the morning. Followed by inky fingers as I catch up on general events which have been filtered for me by an editorial team I feel loyal to.

And if they want to give me free stuff too, then so much the better.

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