I gotta admit, I’m one lucky son-of-a-bitch.
I’ve been given the enviable job of heading to Cape Town in South Africa for the duration of the World Cup as part of the SBS broadcast team. My main job will be as the producer of sports news reader Craig Foster each morning, ensuring he gets all the scripts and background information needed to go to air.
But once that is done (by 11.30am Cape Town time) – I’m putting my money where my mouth is as a multi-platform, mobile journalist, filing for online, radio & TV.
Coming with me is a veritable feast of gadgets and prosumer equipment, and there’s little doubt I’m going to be extremely busy for the 6 weeks in South Africa, with requests already piling up.
Here’s what’s coming with me:
- MacBook Pro 13″ with Photoshop CS4 & FinalCut Pro
- Canon 70-200mm f2.8 zoom lens (camera buffs drool now…)
- Flash Microphone
- iPhone 16GB laden with content producing apps.
With it I hope to spend my days shooting video for TV, filing interviews and doing live crosses for radio, photo galleries for The World Game & World News Australia online and a couple of other bits and pieces I can’t really discuss yet
With today’s incredible and cheap equipment and with a bit of technical nous, I’m hoping to prove the point that truly mobile journalism is possible and can still be of the high quality, despite he claims of many traditional media journalists (including many workmates) that new media is killing off quality journalism.
I’ve laboured the point a million times before, but I’ll labour it again. Quality journalism isn’t only the domain of 2,000 word feature articles or 25 minute mini-documentaries, especially in the new media world. With media outlets facing such dogged competition from all platforms, the true skill of a quality journalist is telling stories in an engaging way for their audiences.
This requires journalism to evolve, to grow, and to adapt to the new breed of media audience that demands more from their media outlets.
Just have a look at the list of online news winners from this year’s Pulitzer Prize. Or the fact that, for the first time, an online-only publication won one of the prestigious awards.
Isn’t it time we all started moving past online as a ‘value-add’ for newspapers & TV? Here in Australia we may be bombarded with tabloid reporting in our biggest online publications, but as the saying goes, you are what you eat. It’s out there, you just need to look for it…
Here’s hoping I can contribute in a positive way to finally ending this debate over online as a legitimate journalistic endeavour.
Let the great paid content experiment begin.
After months of hints, guarded comments and innuendo from publishers around the globe, it was the big kid in the playground, Rupert Murdoch, who has ended the speculation in one foul swoop with plans to charge for all the online content of his newspapers and television news channels.
In a rare move by the savvy media mogul, Mr Murdoch clearly outlined his plans to begin charging for online news following the success of the Wall Street Journal, which keeps much of its content behind a pay-wall, and was acquired by News Corp in 2007. Obviously it’s hoped that dozens of other global publishers will see the move as an open invitation to follow the huge stable of Murdoch mastheads into what they hope is a river of cash (come on in, the water is green!), or at least enough to stave off the wolves at the door.
Here in Australia, Fairfax have opened the door to charge for content via a two-tiered system, claiming “we can’t afford to keep the big newsroom staffs we have”.
Can it work? Sure – it can work – and in my next entry I’ll show you five ways how.
But will it? Here are my five reasons why I think it won’t…
News is a commodity
The reality about many online newsrooms is there is almost no discernible difference between much of the wire-driven copy from one masthead to another – just plug a breaking news story into Google news and click on a few results. Short, text-based breaking news simply doesn’t have enough value to exist behind a paywall, especially as there are competitors in every market who are willing or even keen to give it away for free. Sure newspapers are the repository of some of the world’s best journalists who are able to craft articles or comment pieces of incredible insight and clarity, but in this fast moving world of 24/7 news, are they able to keep up with the demand in time. And what about the rapidly growing notion of news a service instead of a destination? How will you charge to get your news onto the platforms where your audiences are gathering (Facebook, Twitter, mobile phones) when news starts to find them.
Net natives don’t have masthead loyalty
The idea that new media audiences will continue to flock to a masthead simply because it’s an old-guard newspaper or broadcaster is, put simply, delusional. Not only is the credibility of these organisations drying up at a rate of knots, but Net Natives are going to respond to new news organisations that reflect their needs via the thousands of niche sites who represent them. It’s time to respect the audience and deliver news on their terms, not ours.
Journalism is not a profit-making exercise
It’s pretty simple really. Newspapers made their money from classifieds and advertising, not from charging at the news-stand. Unfortunately thanks to the internet that business model is broken. But without the cost of printing and distribution, it’s going to be a tough sell to charge on the basis of the content. Slapping a membership or a micropayment system on an existing infrastructure will result in disaster. It’s time the business model was pushed aside for a whole new type of thinking.
Online shouldn’t prop up bloated newsrooms
As a journalist, this will get me into trouble, but it’s time we all acknowledged the elephant in the room. Newsrooms are cumbersome and over-staffed with journalists filling up dozens of sections that barely get lip-service in a daily newspaper. It’s time to make decisions based on what audiences want, not what advertisers want. Do that and suddenly a whole crop of new business models and niche markets will unfold before your eyes.
Blogs are a credible alternative source of comment
Another furphy of old-school thinking by old-media journalists – that bloggers simply can’t do the job of trained journalists when it comes to commentary and analysis. The notion of bloggers as over-opinionated, ignorant raving lunatics is as out-dated as the newspaper model itself. Today’s blogs are a collection of professionals or passionate observers whose expertise often circumvents the knowledge of their so called professional peers. To denigrate The Daily Beast, Talking Points Memo, The Huffington Post, Mashable (for all things social media) and individuals like Jeff Jarvis, is akin to ignoring a dozen new competitors opening up within a block of your retail store. And unlike newspapers, they want to give away their product for free.
Don’t get me wrong – despite the gloomy points listed above, I do think the great paid content debate can be resolved by a compromised, workable solution. But it requires far more thought than simply throwing a bunch of content perceived to have value by old newspaper hacks behind a paywall.
What’s needed is a far more considered and somewhat sophisticated approach that treats consumers of new media with a lot more respect than is traditionally given by the old-media guard of newspapers and TV broadcasters.
In the next day or two I’ll give you five ways the paywall can work – but it will require media organisations to tear down the notion of what’s valuable and rebuild it from scratch.