Survive or die trying

December 1, 2009

It seems strange and almost pathetically romantic but when the conversation of how journalism is to make money crops up I feel, not uncomfortable, but more ‘why do we need to make money, anyway? Let’s just do it for the news. Yeh!” *Pumps fist in the air to complete call to arms* Then I realise that it is not about journalists being rich, it is about journalism surviving. This is not about luxury, this is about subsistence.

The industry needs money to support itself, not to keep hacks in the middle class. This is the scary thing. As more papers close or cut staff it is becoming clearer that this profession will disappear or be no longer recognisable in a decade. Now people may point to online advertising as our white knight but advertising is not making up for the shortfall in the loss of newspaper sales. Where do we go? It is unlikely newspaper sales are going to pick up enough to support revenue single-handedly and so, another solution must be sought.

As much as ingenius, revolutionary advertising methods may help, and this is indeed crunch time for that industry too – the pressure to remain fresh and interesting is high – the word(s) on everybody’s lips in the media world is… wait for it… paywall.

Are the public prepared to pay for news? As Rob Andrews, our guest lecturer last week, told us, essentially, no. Surveys show they are not. This can be tinkered with – online access with the paper, yearly subscriptions, pay-per-article – but let us consider the issue at large. If people are not prepared to pay for news and the sources of free news are becoming bigger and better what is to become of journalism?

I am quietly confident/blindly optimistic that our profession can not collapse. The lower it goes is potentially the higher it will bounce back. If journalists drop off one by one then the quality, and maybe, but not necessarily, the quantity, will decrease dramatically. Hopefully, to the point where the public will crave for professional accurate news. News aggregators will be a thing of the past as men fight to give their credit card details to paywalls higher than Icarus, and hopefully more successful.

Murdoch is toying with paywalls as are a group of six or seven local papers, the Guardian have said they will not introduce one, however, I can not help but feel it is inevitable. Whether this will increase media revenue or force potential newsreaders further into the hands of Yahoo is hard to say. I like to consider these times an uninvited purge of the profession. It’s flood time and Noah is inviting anyone who cares enough to get on board the boat that has not yet been built. As a new generation of journalists come through, hopefully, we will have the tools and the time to build this ark before, god forbid, we all drown.


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