Two old media giants fork off: one hits wall
Posted August 13, 2009on:
Despite years of debate over the damage the web’s wreaking on traditional newspapers, what to do about it remains unsettled by those at the helm. From the UK perspective, our daily rags are literally forking off in different directions.
There is the pay wall, the route Rupert ‘We intend to charge for all our news websites’ Murdoch seems to be taking. Then there is Emily Bell’s freemium strategy:
“I don’t know how many times or how clearly I can say we won’t be charging for content on the site, but we won’t. Only six months ago we removed the last remaining paywall from web content from around our crosswords.
“Our strategy is entirely around reach and audience engagement — both if which would be irreparably damaged by pay walls.”
If I had to pick one of Charlie Beckett’s descriptions I’d say Murdoch is gambling or asset-stripping, the genius tag doesn’t cut it. This is because Rupert’s rhetoric just doesn’t seem to acknowledge that the dynamic has changed. In the age of abundant information the only way you can expect users to pay for strings of characters is a) Quality and b) Loyalty.
The trouble with relying on a) Quality is that as publishing costs approach zero there can be content out there which is as good as, or even better, than that created by newspapers. Empirical evidence indicates:
“the blogosphere can produce content of a higher quality than that produced by the profit driven, industrial model of production employed by the traditional media”
No online newspaper will survive if it ignores this fact. It can only win by engaging with it – being open to the new publishing environment. Ultimately, this means adopting a many-to-many virtual community model rather than a broadcast model: creating b) Loyalty, even if that means giving away content for free. It also means letting in and listening to the madding crowd, who, if you listen hard enough, might actually tell you what they are prepared to pay for.