Info

A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

For years, those of us who have been thinking deeply about the digital translation have been asking the same question:

What happens when one of our national newspapers closes – or goes online only?

Anyone who didn’t know that day was coming has either been sticking their head in the sand about the changing economics of print newspapers in the digital age, or fundamentally believes that nostalgia is a business model.

As print sales have declined across the board – an inevitable consequence of the massive battle for attention being waged now that everyone has access to connected devices – it was inevitable that there would not be enough readers and advertisers to keep the same number of titles around we had 30 years ago. And so it has been proved.

The only question was: who and when?

An Independent transition – to online only

A death of print is announced

And now the question has been answered. The tiny (just over 40k paid copies a day), loss-making Independent is closing its print edition, and going online-only. There’s part of me that’s deeply sad about this. I remember the launch of The Independent, and was a loyal reader for years, valuing both its exceptional photography and independent stance. And its lack of royalty coverage. But that Indy is long gone. Today’s notice of the killing of the print edition is more like seeing an old friend’s suffering finally end.

Come March, The Independent will be an online-only national news site. And now the conversation changes.

New questions for a new age

This shift raises a whole bunch of new questions, like:

Who is next?

Folks on Twitter have been suggesting answers:

If I had to put money on it, I’d choose one of the tabloids. I think the remaining “qualities’ all have things going for them, but the sort of content the red-tops (and even the Express) peddle is so abundant and free online that the print edition is only valuable through convenience and nostalgia.

The Independent in intensive care

Equally important is:

Will The Independent survive the transition?

That’s an interesting question. With my “digital journalist” head on, there are some deeply fundamental weaknesses to the site. The staff show a lack of awareness of some crucial digital skills, and much of their copy could be run in print, with no modifications. If they’re to survive as a digital business, they need to get more digitally savvy. There’s also the problem that we’re deeply over-supplied online with both general news and opinion pieces. Trading off just those is no recipe for success. Selling a commodity product is a hard enterprise.

The online-only Independent needs to be as innovative and distinctive as the print Independent was back in the 80s.

Today’s news marks a turning of the wheel. Before, the majority of the public conversations were about running print and digital in parallel. (The ones behind closed doors were somewhat different in tone.).

  • The first epoch was digital as an adjunct or marketing tool for print.
  • The second was print and digital as equal partners.

We’re now starting the transition into the their epoch: the age of print decline. We don’t know how deep it will go – and I don’t think it’ll die completely – but once you start accepting that, the whole economics of the news business change.

As the cliché goes – fasten your seatbelt. It’s going to be a bumpy few years for these former icons of the industry. And not all of them will survive the flight…

So, we finally have it. Instagram now supports account switching from within the app. This is, of course, fantastic news for anyone who is managing a site’s Instagram account while trying to use the app for personal reasons, too.

Up until now they’ve been left with some variation of logging in and out, or having two phones. Instagram has never been very API-friendly. Those clunky approaches are a thing of the past, and that’s great news, I’m in the process of launching the web presence of a new venture – and it’s making my life easier from day one.

I’m not going to go other the details of how it works – that’s been well covered elsewhere. There are good guides on iMore and the Buffer blog.

Learning to switch

I’m more interested in one specific detail of the account switching process. Here’s a screenshot of the process mid-switch:

Instagram switching

All you do is press (quite firmly) on the user logo in the bottom right of the screen, and you switch accounts.

Switching from the top

Alternatively, you can go to your profile screen, and just click on the menu at the top.

Top switch

Tap on the account you want to switch to, and you’re away. It’s much simpler and more intuitive than other apps that allow account switching – like Twitter, for example, where the account switching mechanism feels clunky every time I use it. There, you have to go to the profile page, and hit a specific button. The almost universal availability of the switching mechanism – without making it too easy to accidentally switch – shows an attention to detail that’s characteristic of Instagram. They only add new features very slowly, and when they do, they tend to get them right.

Using an iPad to prepare photos for the web

This article has me rethinking one of my core reasons for not using my iPad for more blogging:

I’ve pretty much stopped importing and editing images on my Mac. Though I didn’t expect it, the iPad provides me with an easier and quicker workflow for posting hero images on iMore than my Mac ever did.

Basically, while we were all looking elsewhere, the iPad got really good at moving files between applications. And, for some tasks, it’s now better than the Mac.

30 years of selling comics in London

Gosh, a London comics shop, is 30 years old:

So not a bad year for comics, and not a bad year for us: on the 14th February 1986, Gosh! Comics opened its doors for the first time in our old premises opposite the British Museum. Yes, that’s right, this Valentines Day, Sunday 14th February, marks our 30th anniversary!

Which means I’ve been frequenting that shop on and off for the vast majority of its existence. I first shopped there when I arrived as a student in September 1989, when it was only 3½ years old.

Old. That’s what I feel now.

I wonder if they’ll last another 30, with the switch of comics towards digital?

Over the weekend, I headed down to Wiltshire for the kick-off meeting of a new project, and it was a wonderful experience. Over the last few years I’ve been doing a lot of training, and a fair bit of consulting, but I’ve had less and less opportunity to actually do the things I’ve been talking about.

Well, I got to spend Sunday with a bunch of very smart, very experienced and very knowledgeable people, who are about to do something really challenging. And I’m looking forwards to helping tell their story over the next 18 months or so.

It’s not about you

Making an (engineering) proposal
It reminded me of why I’ve come to love journalism so much: the process of finding people doing interesting things, in fields you have to learn about rapidly, while bringing their story to a wider audience is something I love – and find profoundly satisfying.

There’s a fundemental truth to journalism (in the majority of cases, at least) – it’s not about you, the journalist. It’s about the people you’re reporting on and the people you’re reporting for. This is something I see many students struggle with, caught up (as they often are) with notions of columnists and “star” reporters. Being a good journalist requires some degree of self-suppression, as you see yourself as a conduit between people with something interesting to say – and the people who would benefit from hearing that.

Telling Tools

A room full of engineers
That’s not to say that things like gonzo journalism aren’t great and useful techniques. But inserting yourself into the story isn’t quite the same thing as making yourself the story. The characters aren’t the plot.

Tell the story, using the best tools for the job. That’s as true online as it is in print – we just have a winder range of tools.

Oh, and more about the project that triggered these thoughts later in the week, as its online presence starts to go live…

Yahoo is stopping investing in Flickr

Sad time for those of us that still use and enjoy Flickr:

While products such as Yahoo Games will soon be shut down, Yahoo says that it will be reducing its investment in non-essential properties such as Flickr. Flickr will stay alive, but Yahoo will be reducing Flickr’s resources and attempt to run the photo service in a way that requires minimal overhead.)

Essentially, the best we can hope for is that Yahoo sells Flickr to someone who will care about it – or that Yahoo itself is sold and that the new owners give a damn. Time to pay more attention to 500px again, I think.