Up for grabs: the future of newspapers

10 10 2008

The latest issues of Journalism Practice and Journalism Studies are devoted entirely to a topic that never seems to age (no pun intended): the future of newspapers. Based on presentations at the 2007 Cardiff Future of Newspapers Conference the journal articles explore five themes:

(1) new media and the changing newspaper environment;
(2) newspapers as businesses;
(3) local, regional and community newspapers;
(4) global trends and developments and
(5) newspapers’ changing contents, design and formats

As Bob Franklin writes in the introduction to the special issues:”Newspapers around the globe are in a state of flux, reflecting the influence of a number of technological, cultural, economic and political changes.” And it’s not the journalists who are to blame for declining sales, but rather the business model behind newspaper advertising that’s strangling print journalism as we know it. As Paul Fahri correctly observes, the market for newspaper ads has simply dried up.

There’s no quick & dry solution at hand I’m afraid. I don’t feel qualified to comment on how newspapers can or should generate revenue in this day and age, but I do agree wholeheartedly with Philip Meyer’s analysis:

“the information age has created a demand for processed information. We need someone to put it into context, give it theoretical framing and suggest ways to act on it. … The raw material for this processing is evidence-based journalism, something that bloggers are not good at originating. “

If this results in ‘narrowcasting’ aimed at a specialist audience, so be it. As I quote Philip Meyer once again, such an elite newspaper could offer “analysis, interpretation and investigative reporting in a print product that appears less than daily, combined with constant updating and reader interaction on the Web.” I, for one, would be more than willing to pay for such information. Would you?

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