Daily Archives: July 14, 2009

iPhone – the saviour of journalism

Inspired by the thoughts of blogger Soilman, my post on Why journalism may become software development struck a chord with a few readers.

I’m now pleased to say it seems to be coming true (though not because of me, you understand).

Media Industry Newsletter web site Min Online suggests 5 online content models worth watching – among them one that seems to work precisely because it tries to hide the fact that it’s an online magazine.  

One of the smartest things People did with its $1.99 iPhone app is not to call it a mobile magazine. 

But the Min site argues that’s exactly what it is – though “the ‘Tracker’ label gives it the patina of utility”.

Whether people will be prepared to pay hard cash for just a “patina” of utility once the shiny, shiny iPhone buzz wears off is another matter. But this clearly points the way forward for content if you want people to shell out for it. 

Maybe the key thing is to focus on making it really useful. (It also doesn’t hurt that the platform has a captive audience and proprietary barriers to entry…)

[HT: Bristol Editor]

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Why paid journalism is in trouble

As a coda to my post on why journalists can’t afford to be purist about their trade anymore, Eat Sleep Publish sums up exactly why the paid journalism model is in such trouble.

Former P-I staffer Curt Milton runs theEastlake Ave blog. He keeps a part time job, makes tons of local connections, writes his posts, edits them, and shoots and edits and uploads video and pictures.

It’s simple economics. When one-person publishing costs virtually nothing and can achieve much of what the news dinosaurs can, it’s much harder to make the economics of journalism add up.

And don’t start on how a one-person, part-time neighbourhood blog just can’t offer what a professionally staffed newsroom can. At the local level that simply isn’t true any more. And even nationally, the quality of journalistic output can be pretty ropey. 

Crucially, when you’re at the level of the hyper-local, I suspect a local neighbourhood blog actually does a much better job of reporting than a local paper.

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Journalists can’t afford to be purist about their trade anymore

There’s a nice rant over at Fleet Street Blues decrying the media’s current seeming obsession with the delivery of media content over its practice.

The best thing about journalism isn’t blogging, or Twittering, or finding innovative multimeeja ways to tell a story, or even asking someone difficult questions Paxman-style. It’s about finding something out that no one knows, and telling people. Simple as that.

When it comes to learning your trade, they say, don’t get sidetracked with all that web technology malarkey:

If you want to be a specialist, don’t learn Dreamweaver or podcasting or how to put together Google map. Be a police reporter or an education reporter or a health reporter, and learn your field. 

My comment on the post hasn’t been approved yet (what – don’t they trust me?). But essentially, while I admire the sentiments, I think there are some fundamental problems with it. 

The post actually recognises some of them. At the end it says: 

If you want to be a journalist, then forget payment models, multimedia development and how to drive traffic. That’s not your job. Your job is to be a damn fine reporter and let the chips fall as they may. If they – the editors, publishers and readers – can’t figure out a way to pay for us, then so be it. They’ll miss us.

It’s that tiny detail – finding someone to actually pay for this stuff – that is at the crux of this whole “where is journalism going” debate. And, of course, if you’re one of the thousands of journalism graduates being spewed out of the higher education system every year, that’s not much comfort when you can’t find a job. 

I look on all that multimeeja nonsense as basically a tool. It’s a bit like saying if you want to be a specialist, don’t learn to type, or don’t learn to use InDesign. 

The tools of the trade are changing – and we need to keep up. The problem we face at the moment is that the tools of the trade are changing really fast. And the trade itself is also changing really fast, thanks to the double whammy of recession and technology change. 

That’s why I think the idea of the old-style investigative reporter, armed with just a notebook and the knowledge of his or her beat, is now a bit of a luxury. In order to be anything resembling a journalist, you’ll probably have to be able to set up and maintain a web site, know how to drive traffic and have some idea of payment models as well as being a damn fine reporter.

Hey, I never said it would be easy. But I don’t think there’ll be a choice for a lot of us…

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