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This is what is killing newspapers

From the comments on The Times’ Q&A about it’s pay-model:

“£2 a week is too rich for my blood even considering the quality reporting but this depends on what the annual rate will be.”

If people genuinely believe that news isn’t worth £2 per week – less than the price of a latte at Starbucks – then newspapers are doomed, whether they are in print, online, or a mixture of the two. If the content is something that’s so throwaway to you that it’s not worth 29p per day, then you’re just not engaged with it and it’s effectivel just time-filler, wallpaper.

And if news is just wallpaper, then advertisers aren’t going to pay for it, either. At which point, goodbye news – online or off.

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…”

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Karl

    It’s relative, though, isn’t it? £104 a year is a lot to pay for The Times when The Guardian and The Telegraph, for instance, will let you read everything for free. But if all news sources move to pay-per-view model, or at least all the good ones, then people get used to it and just stump up.

    Readers might even start to see an advantage in having news sites that don’t need to court advertisers. I’d certainly pay a couple of hundred pounds a year to a genuinely independent online news source that invested in proper investigative journalism and really got down to some good old-fashioned dirt digging.

  • http://twitter.com/westwit Wes

    I honestly believe this: “News” has virtually nil value today. There’s way too many places to get it with little distinguishing one source from another. (Thanks to buyouts and layoffs, you can’t even count on better copy-editing as a potential for increased value!) And worse yet, news stories go stale remarkably fast. News has always had a short shelf life, but each time a faster, more personal communication medium comes out, news will “spoils faster”. Newspapers had a great run when they had a near monopoly on information distribution, but first radio came and struck and wounded the evening editions. Television (with the evening news) cleaned that out. Cable with 24-hour CNN started killing the newspapers and the evening broadcasts of the big three. (By now, I guess you’ve figured I’m looking at this from America.) The internet has brought the news even closer to you, and allows you to just get the news you want, now wounding the omnibus model of newsgathering. (Fox News is almost like the TV version of an Internet RSS feed of American conservative/right-wing reporting and opinion, but like cable news in general, it skews older. So it’s an internet feed of all of that for people who aren’t completely sure what an “Internet RSS feed” is.) The internet simply accelerated this by killing the advertising model the news relied on to pay the bills as well.

    That said, if online news gets so terrible that only AOL bots are writing copy, you might again see a profitable market for professionally produced news. Unfortunately, there will be far fewer players in this future. I feel predicting two and a half “national” newspapers in America might be optimism, with other papers in the larger cities shrinking to just a local core, or going bust. (My guess of the two and a half would be The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the half being the Washington Post. The Washington Post is the curious one because its executive editor is already on record for shrinking it down to its local core, but since its local core is Washington DC, it will have national significance solely for that!)

    I hope I’m pessimistic and wrong about that.

  • Jonas

    In comparing newspapers to coffee you’re comparing very different things.

    Humans need to drink and, what’s more, once they start drinking coffee they need caffeine or they feel bad. If you can wrap this human need up in good packaging and a comfortable environment you’ve created a lot of value that people are prepared to pay for.

    It’s lovely for humans to keep up-to-date with the news but (except in specific business-critical circumstances) it’s not a need. When there are thousands of free places to get that nice-to-have news update (and some of those places, like Twitter, are quicker on the draw than the venerable newspapers) it’s little wonder that the perceived value of news is diminishing.

  • Karl

    Twitter and other social media are great at spreading the word about something that’s already in the public domain. But we would never have found out about, for instance, the scandal of MPs’ expenses, by relying on Twitter alone. Whether the subject under scrutiny is ministers prostituting themselves to big business or Katie Price’s latest… whatever the hell it is she does, there will always be a market for professional journalism.