Home » Archives for July 2009

Month: July 2009

Some Good Reading About The Future of News

Good stuff I’ve read recently, haven’t linked to yet, but don’t have much to add to right now:

And with that, I hand you over to August and the silly season that comes with it.

We Never Sold Journalism

I have a confession: the news paywall debate irritates me. It irritates me, because this discussion was had years ago, and discussed with a great deal of depth and intelligence across the emergent publishing and journalism blogosphere. And then it was promptly ignored by the majority of the publishing industry because they didn’t think that print was in any danger.


And now everyone is piling back into the discussion as panic begins to set in throughout organisations that never looked for revenue models beyond the “sales and ads” combo. And I was reminded of this by a throwaway comment in a blog post about a totally unrelated discussion (the old Apple versus PC discussion):

Google isn’t a tech company, it just gives the appearance
of being one (as I’ve said many times before, it’s really in the
business of ad sales, like any publisher – it doesn’t sell technology).

This, my friends, is the elephant in the room: we never sold journalism. Sure, we charged people for a package that included journalism. But, with some honourable exceptions, what we actually did was charge people for an advertising delivery vehicle. Often, in fact, we gave away the delivery vehicle. We call it controlled circulation in the B2B publishing world.

And then, somebody built a better mousetrap. Google isn’t a threat to the publishing industry because it “steals” its content for Google News. It’s a threat because it destroyed our advertising models.

And that’s the issue I see too many people skating around in the call for a shift back to paywalls. We have never charged truly charged what news cost to produce, and there’s no way we can suddenly ask people to start doing so, just because our advertising model went bust.

This is not a Rant

I have one of those long, ranty blog posts building in me right now.This isn’t it.

But if you want to know what it might be about, there are two things you should know:
  1. With the news that NetNewsWire, my RSS reader of choice, is now syncing with Google Reader, I took the opportunity to clear most traditional print media RSS feeds out from my subscriptions.
  2. I read this blog post, nodding so vigourously that I nearly spilt my coffee. And for those of you who know how I feel about coffee will realise how serious that is. To quote Kevin:

Most of what obsesses the media is remarkably juvenile, and as the media’s fortunes have waned, they have becoming annoyingly shrill in trying to reassert their role in society. Watchdogs? Defenders of democracy? I wish. Mostly of the media operate as little more than professional gossips and hypocritical scolds.

Heading to be2camp Brum


Those of you who remember my days as a property journalist (and indeed, when this blog was substantially about the built environment) might be interested to know that I’m off to Be2camp Brum the week after next.

Be2camp is a series of unconference-style events focusing on the use of social web technologies in the built environment. And given that those are two of my passions, I’m looking forward to it hugely.

The Problem with an iTunes for News

There’s an interesting paragraph in Cory Doctorow’s review of Chris Anderson’s new book Free in The Guardian, that has some relevance for those proposing an iTunes-style model for news:

Likewise, iTunes sells a lot of music that you can get for free on the internet, so they’re not really selling the music, they’re selling the service of getting the music without having to muck about with P2P software and unsure quality.
It’s not the whole story, as there’s a “reward the artist” element in play, too, but it is an insightful comment.

The problem the news business has is that high-quality free news is significantly easier to find than free music, and is legal, too. Making it harder to find wouldn’t just require all the existing newspapers to push their content behind a paywall, but all the related bloggers and other community publishers, too. If that doesn’t happen, there just isn’t a compelling gap in the market for a paid approach to making news easier to find.

Update: There’s an interview with Anderson about his views on the future of news on Salon.

Thanks to My Guest Posters

I owe a big “thank you” to the guest posters who filled in for me last week, while I was rambling around the Cornish coast. My three vigorous volunteers were:

Thanks, guys!
(I did intend to have 5 guest posters, but a combination of paternity and password problems stopped two of them posting.)