Tag Archives: Journalism

When Murdoch raises the paywall what side will you stand?

Paywalls, paywalls, paywalls. It seems every time I switch on the tv, radio or laptop there is someone talking about Rupert Murdoch and his pledge to start charging for online content next year. So I’m going to add to the saturation by talking about it on my blog too.

Last week I attended a lecture given by editor for ContentNext, Robert Andrews. In it he told Cardiff University postgraduates that charging for online content is akin to: “Trying to put the genie back in the bottle.” His reasoning is people have been brought up with content for free on the net so the concept of paying for it is alien. Of course he is right, it is a strange thought, but one that is already in operation.

Robert explained that the Financial Times already has paywalls, which are making money (around £90 per 121,000 subscribers) primarily because it’s a business paper and people are willing to pay for what they see as valuable information they cannot get elsewhere. B2B magazines can also afford to put up paywalls (as this article in paidContent:UK refers to) as they too have niche information that people deem relevant enough to fork out for. So where does this leave Murdoch and his newspapers which, some would argue, doesn’t give people news what they can’t obtain for free elsewhere? The answer is no one knows.

Rupert Murdoch

Murdoch will soon charge for online content

But Murdoch isn’t the only one who believes in paywalls. Editor of the Financial Times, Lionel Barber, has predicted that most news organisations will charge for online content within a year. He believes that digital media doesn’t pose a threat to crafted professional journalism but does to the mediocre (people blogging on hearsay rather than fact).

Only time will tell if Murdoch will be successful when the paywall rises.

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Ignore the audience, they’re mad

The BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones recently came to give a talk entitled: Typewriter to Twitter for Cardiff University journalism students. In the lecture he discussed how journalism has changed since he began his career in 1983, and what it looks like now  in 2009.

Rory explained how audiences back then were taken for granted by TV execs as people could only really choose between two stations – in addition to no internet, Sky or cable TV – so they were almost guaranteed a large audience. He discussed that audience members were also seen as mad with station staff not really taking any notice of them when they contacted the station. One thing that surprised me was his scepticism of any original journalism going on in the 1980s – he said staff read newspapers earlier in the day, then reported that news later in the morning.

A couple of decades later and things are quite different. No audiences are taken for granted anymore as there are too many channels and media platforms all fighting for their share. The way we consume news is different too. A lot of people read news via the internet, which they can currently do for free, and they have 24 hour access. In present times there is so much choice that competition pressure has raised the quality of the main broadcasters – but with the rise of citizen journalists it has led to questioning of their output too.

So the world of journalism has changed a great deal with one glaring difference between now and the 1980s being the audience is no longer taken for granted. In fact audiences now actively take part in stories by providing User Generated Content or blogging, tweeting about events when they occur  TV execs can no longer see as them as mad but perhaps more of a competition.

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What is happening right now?

Last Thursday I attended a lecture by Dr Claire Wardle regarding social media and how it’s shaping the journalism industry. She has been Principal Investigator for a number of funded research projects – one in which she examined the use of User Generated Content (UGC) across BBC news outlets.

Claire gave us a well-informed and ultra fast-paced lecture, not sure if she’s sponsored by Relentless but perhaps she should be. The lecture largely consisted of new social networking tools which are helping journalists find out a lot more about what’s happening in the world than ever before.

Tools such as news aggregators, for example Netvibes which enables people to have news brought to them, social network aggregators like Addict-o-matic and new applications to enhance Twitter such as Twitter Grader where you can find where you rank in the Twittersphere, TweepML to find lists of people you may be interested in following and Twitscoop a useful way of using the micro blogging service to see the current trending topics and automatic refreshing of your live feed. These applications help you keep on top of what is happening in the world in real-time.

The sites are becoming vital for journalists to use. Not only because it helps them keep abreast of local and international news but also it makes their lives easier in terms of research (aggregators/Twitter) and contacting sources (social networking sites).

As we are continually being told the face of the industry is changing, and rapidly. The era we’re entering may be as important as the advent of the Gutenberg’s press and these new tools are essential to learn if we want succeed in this ever-changing landscape.

As Twitter encourages people to let the world know what they are doing right now journalists need to pay attention to the news this can create.

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Do journalists need an internet manifesto?

Not agreeing with all that is stated here in this Internet Manifesto created by German journalists I do find point nine The Internet is the new venue for political discourse interesting. It demonstrates how the internet is a powerful tool in maintaining democracy as it: “Thrives on participation and freedom of information.”

The internet provides a platform for debate on the media’s output as it enables the people, formally known as the audience, to engage in talks on almost anything and everything. As the Internet Manifesto explains it encourages active discussion which simply wasn’t possible not so long ago. The public are now able to express their opinions by using online mediums like Twitter and comment sections on articles.

In Alison Gow’s blog she talks about internet manifestos and how putting them on the web isn’t the answer because: “Too many of the people who need convincing aren’t looking there that often.”

Alison acknowledges the vital importance of the net and how every journalist needs involvement in its development. She understands that although the print media claim they are internet savvy, this isn’t always the case – especially with regards to the execs: “The focus is [still] on the money-making print product.”

So the problem lays with staff, as Alison states: “Higher up the editorial food chain” that aren’t internet literate. They refuse to learn the new ways of journalism, not grasping that the industry has changed forever.

In essence she is saying just because you understand how it once worked there’s no point having your head in the sand hoping that the industry will  go back to the way it was. Until a time-travelling DeLorean gets invented, that’s not going to happen.

These people should embrace change and help foster democracy online. A manifesto won’t implement this, but it serves as a reference for those that should be paying attention.

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