There is an increasingly accepted view that the 70’s and 80’s were not the definitive model of publishing and the news business but in fact an anomaly. The simplicity of writing some articles, filling ad pages and printing paper products downstairs in your basement with ever increasing efficiency was beautiful, and yacht buying-ly profitable. It also wasn’t ever really going to last. It wasn’t true to the reality of upheaval and intense competition in the news industry.
Like the music industry last decade, news reportage isn’t dying. Far from it, for as those with a clear point of view, a body of trade craft and a business strategy that understands the real value of what they produce are continuing to find they operate a very profitable model. Maybe less gargantuanly profitable than in the past, but really that all depends how you compare today with yesterday.
But tomorrow is very interesting, in particular when dissecting the FT’s decision to fundamentally relook at what is their core value and how they deliver it. Digital First is the mission according to the editor Lionel Barber in a memo that isn’t your usual PR talk value over real business value of too many executives trying to feign as “getting it.”
“Digital,” as highlighted in 21 Quotes from Clay Shirky’s Post Industrial Journalism Paper, is at the centre of the production process, not simple an add on to the sales department. “Digital” is not someone’s domain, department or a silo, it is a way of doing business.
Gone at the FT will be the multiple versions and updates of the paper late into the night on fast moving presses. The on-going, forever updating, stream of “what is happening” will live first and foremost online through browsers and apps. The “what matters” as a more considered view of “news in context” will be put to a single daily “paper” giving a greater sense of permanence and understanding on pre-planned versus reactive schedules.
If I am an advertiser there may be times I just want to get some exposure and reach. Often with a real time aspect as is increasingly possible and meaningful – particularly if the media property properly tracks and shares data / usage behaviour. Of, if I am an advertiser who wants to build margins and brand values I may want to pay a premium for placing my brand where the context of the title improves the perception of my content in a slower more considered reading context. Many would argue the latter is what you get with the pink paper.
As has long been obvious is that media isn’t an either or debate. Offline or online. Analogue or digital. No it is a debate about actual usage and behaviour with an understanding of the real value of a medium in a given context for a given property valuable to certain groups of people.
When speaking of media, fragmentation has long been on the tip of people’s tongues, paradoxically as much a convergence. Typically fragmentation is code for meaning some small guys stealing the big guy’s lunch. For the near team the truth seems to be a race to the middle, the small guys getting bigger and the big guys getting smaller on a relative basis though still with scale and might. Throw in some mergers and acquisitions and before we know it there will be a new model that emerges, only to be killed again…