Remember Newsweek? It used to sit on the shelf in WH Smiths next to Time and other heavy-hitting news magazines. You won’t find it there now though, it recently went digital only. This could easily be dismissed as a one-off, perhaps an under-invested title that failed to push through the recession. Recent events at Time Warner suggest this may not be the case.
In an article that asks ‘How toxic have print assets become?’ Media Decoder investigates how Time Warner is attempting to shear off it’s print division – http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/14/time-inc-the-unwanted-party-guest-being-pushed-out-the-door/
A second ’one-off’ then? No, they aren’t even first to the ring-fencing party. News Corporation have already quarantined their print titles.
Putting up ring-fences like this often leads to a paywall or two.
The problem is the fall in newspaper ad revenue is equal to, or greater even, than total digital ad revenues. Check this scary chart from Alan D. Mutter as an illustration. The number of places to advertise is rising exponentially but total advertising expenditure remains constant.
The fall in newspaper sales would be an extraordinary evolution itself. The Independent is the first major national title to drop below a circulation of 100’000, hitting 76’000 . Combine this with the fall in advertising revenue and the rise of free news on the internet, it becomes nothing short of a revolution.
So what does this mean for content creators? Two online business models will succeed out of this mess, the free news model that chases the numbers, like Mail Online has done to great success. Collating free content from places like twitter and concentrating on the stories that get the most hits can produce numbers that advertisers like. The Mail has shown that combining this approach with traditional journalism is one route to a successful news website.
The second model is hidden behind a paywall. To attract paying visitors the content needs have a USP, or Unique Selling Point. If they can get it free elsewhere, they will. This model is attractive to advertisers for different reasons. The viewers here have already reached into their pockets to see the content – therefore you have their attention and they’ve likely got a bit of cash to spend. It’s also more attractive to content creators who can flex their creative/investigative/journalistic muscles to make content that’s worth paying for. Most news organisations are using both of these models, a free site for the numbers and a paywall for premium content.
But this is the situation now, looking further into the future information is king. Not information that the reader is getting, but information that advertisers can learn about the reader. Like your Nectar card tracks everything you buy, allowing companies like Sainsburys to track sales and target advertising, news sites are employing similar devices. If you read articles about mountain biking you can expect to see adverts for mountain bikes.
The difficulty is competing with the likes of facebook and google when it comes to collating and tracking this data. This won’t be solved until news sites create their own social networking devices, allowing them to feed off the user-generated content whilst providing their own substance into the mix.
Google and co. have realised this and have quietly started to move into contect creation themselves. AOL bought the Huffington Post. We are at the start of this revolution and in a few years time the landscape will look drastically different.
All this has trickled down to photographers, who really need to consider themselves content creators or story tellers. A photograph is the product of a piece of technology that will change beyond recognition in the next few years. Still images will still exist, but the plethora of ways to capture these will blur the distinction between video and stills. As 8k video cameras shoot at a resolution beyond that of many of todays still cameras, would a freeze frame from one of these be any less a photo than one shot on a dslr that shoots at 12fps?
It’s irrelevent, news organisations are paying for the image, not for the technique you used to get it. So look around, because for news media and photography this is, in the immortal words of Henri Cartier Bresson, the ‘Decisive Moment.’