Saturday, 16 December 2006

Newspapers battle with the future

Why would you buy a printed newspaper when you can get all your news free online? Or why not just pick up a free paper?

The key to any strategy for current print news providers is deciding what and how to put content on their websites as currently very few papers have found success charging for content.

It isn't as simple as putting the print content straight onto the web, that is a one-way ticket to oblivion.

People turn to the web for breaking news now, first reports, following up watching longer analysis on TV and in the following days newspapers.

Advertising revenue from online newspapers is way behind print revenue, although this is improving, but I cannot currently see many printed titles being able to drop their cover price in order to encourage more readers that way.

What are newspaper good for?

People don't tend to read long news articles on a screen, personally I would rather print them off to read and take in later.

Lengthy feature or analytical articles are what print is and has always been good for.

This is part of the key to any level of success in the current murky media climate. Clever integration and cross-promotion of the print and online products.

If both products can be successful editorially and feed off each other, drawing audiences through their quality, then this can only help grow potential both advertising revenue streams.

The main problem for national and local titles is there is no tried and tested path for a successful future strategy. Their are titles that have large audiences and a strong presence online, particularly The Guardian in the UK and The New York Times in America.

Multimedia minefield

Broadband has enabled the web to embrace multimedia content, and this has trickled down to news organisations, including newspaper titles.

Podcasts have begat video reports, but the danger with treading into visual waters is that there are plenty of broadcasting operations who have far more understanding of the medium and can produce superior content.

Summing up

The future looks very uncertain, but the opportunity is there to reinvent newspapers for a digital age. The question will be: "But how do we do it?".

There is no simple answer, but one thing news providers must never forget is that content is king.

Taking your eye off the ball regarding producing relevant, intelligent and focussed news reports would be a big mistake, that is the one advantage news operations have over the majority of bloggers or citizen journalists.

The editorial team will always be the most vital resource, but newspaper owners must support them wisely and cleverly in order to keep the paper afloat in the coming decades.

Read more:
Papers battle online news sites from BBC Click technology programme.

More links on online newspapers and the future of newspapers.