Sunday, 9 March 2008

This week, the futures look like this

The future is free. The future is citizen journalism. The future is print. The future is video. The future is high-value content for which you will be charged a subscription.

The future is a many-splendoured thing.

Many alternative futures beckon journalists. We just don’t know - depending on whether we are in TV, radio, local newspapers, national newspapers, consumer magazines, B2B magazines, or whatever - which version of that future will prove to be our destiny.

So here’s a snapshot: one week in multimedia journalism that shows the sheer diversity of solutions that are being sought and ways forward that are being followed.

But let’s bear in mind that next week’s futures could be different.

The future is premium content sold at a premium price

The FT has gone against the trend by increasing its paper cover price from £1 to £1.50 and, while some of its online content is available to subscribers who can register for free, most is protected and available only to those with a paid-for subscription.

The results: paper sales up 2 per cent year-on-year in the last six months of 2007 to 440,000; paid subscriptions up 13 per cent to 101,000.

Chief executive John Ridding told Press Gazette: “We have always believed that quality journalism is a viable business ...People will pay premium prices for premium journalism.”

Expansion of video production on has been a revenue driver in 2007 – with 100 videos published a month generating 500,000 views.

“The rates we can charge for sponsorship are several factors higher than what we can for the same number of page views in normal web traffic.”

His tip on surviving: “Be as different as possible...differentiate yourself and focus on what makes you different.”

The future is hyper-local websites run by readers.

The Glasgow Evening Times network of community websites, launched this week, will eventually be run by trained members of the public. There will eventually be 80 sites – 12 have been launched so far – covering ultra-local news and listings.

Evening Times assistant editor Graeme Smith told Press Gazette: “We felt we should do this because we wanted to own the Glasgow online audience before anyone else made a move.”

The future is hyper-local but with reverse publishing into print

On Teesside, Trinity Mirror's Evening Gazette launched 16 free titles last year, the content of which was reverse published from 20 websites, each based on a postcode.

The future is TV

Men’s Health, the monthly men’s lifestyle magazine, is to launch Men’s Health TV with 90 workout videos. It’s online ABCE was 300,000 unique visitors in January. The printed version’s average circulation for the second half of 2007 was 240,315.

The future is free, and not free

The Manchester Evening News has a total circulation 0f 180,900. Of that, 98,455 copies are given away, 82,445 are paid for.

The title has 73,304 daily unique users on its web site.

The plan had been to give the paper away in the city centre, where few copies were sold anyway, and charge in the suburbs. But suburban buyers didn’t like the sound of that: why pay for something you can get for free? So the number of giveaway copies has been increased.

The future is print

The Swindon Advertiser was the best-performing evening newspaper in the latest ABC figures. It owes its success, according to editor Dave King, to two things. One is digestible news: “our stories aren’t overwritten, you have side bars, there are lots of nibs, the pages are busy, every page counts.”

The other is a reader acquisition programme that has boosted home deliveries. These factors have won the paper a .4 per cent sales rise to 21,951 year on year.

The future is distribution via Facebook

Click through to York University student newspaper York Vision’s online edition and you go straight through to Facebook. The entire web presence of the paper is embedded into the social-networking site. Ian Withers, one of the students involved, said: “We decided to take our content to where students generally loiter online, rather than set up a stand-alone website... Facebook is by far the best way to distribute our content.”

The future is everything

Trinity Mirror has launched 34 websites, 24 magazines, 23 books and five events/exhibitions in 2007.

The future is B2B

Where did I get my snapshot? Everything in this post I read about in the print edition of Press Gazette. Business to business magazines still deliver.

The future is too bloody much

One problem with all this is that there is now just too much for us to read, watch and listen to.

Keeping up with the news – for journalists, or anyone else who needs to know things for their work - is tough.

What we need is help. We need an editor. Someone who knows what we really need to know and selects it for us, providing handy links to the essential news items of the week.

That’s another future.

Hang about, isn’t that what journalists were invented for in the first place?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.