Archive for the ‘media’ Category

Great post over at the Online Journalism Blog on the journalists’ attitudes to blogging, and how they feel it has affected their craft. Among several interesting points raised, it seems that journalists who work ‘outside of institutional constraints’ (ie. freelance, or working for a new and innovative company) were more likely to embrace and reap the benefits from blogging.

Those working for traditional media companies felt that blogging wasn’t valued by employers, and therefore not encouraged as a use of an employee’s time.

This links to my humble opinion on the ‘is it journalists fault?’ debate. There are plenty of journalists who want to innovate and evolve, but are trapped inside companies that are reluctant to change.

This excellent piece by Philip Meyer gives an overview of why newspapers (and this extends to magazines) are struggling, and what they can do about it.

The central problem is the ‘unbundling’ of content, the effects of which are going to change everything about business models for newspapers and magazines.

The old world Distribution involves huge expense – trained staff producing the content, outlay on printing costs, then the cost of putting the product on lorries and shipping it around the country (or the world). This is offset against the fact that the available channels for consumers to receive this content are limited, and the consumer knows that even if they just want to get one bit of information (eg. the crossword puzzle) they have to buy the whole ‘bundle’ (eg. the newspaper).

Magazines in particular respond to this by bundling together a diverse range of sections (restaurants, homes and gardens, motoring, fashion), knowing that readers who want any one section will have to buy the whole bundle.

I like reading the Guardian daily supplements (G2, Media Guardian etc), so I buy the paper – but I rarely read the actual news bit, which I check online instead.

The new world There is no need to buy the bundle – online you can go straight to the exact piece of content that want, and disregard the rest. This means that bundling is redundant, as are the huge and expensive distribution machines that went alongside it.

While Meyer’s piece suggests localised coverage, the other alternative (particularly for magazines) is strict subject-based specialisation – focusing on a (potentially global) community unified around an area of interest rather than a geographic area. That’s kind of where Shiny Media went with their blog empire.

More on what this means for individual journalists later.

Time Out cover

Time Out cover

Pearce Marchbank has launched a website for his design agency Studio Twenty. Marchbank is a legend of UK magazine design, responsible for the iconic Time Out covers of the ’70s amongst other things, are there are a ton of his designs on the site.

The lack of these bold and ideas-driven magazine covers on the newsstand is often lamented, but the fact is few publishers (or indeed editors) believe that you can shift copies this elegantly any more. Unless you’ve got a loyal (and profitable) subscriber base, of which more later.

Processed information

This much linked to article by Philip Meyer for the American Journalism Review is well worth a read. He focuses on newspapers, but the implications certainly apply to magazines and other media.

The cliché that publishers always liked to peddle about magazines is that they should be the reader’s best friend. This was often misconstrued as meaning the tone should be fawning and desperate to be liked. In fact, ‘best friends’ are the people who will happily give you their honest intepretation of the facts regardless of whether or not it’s what you want to hear, and then equally happily have a blazing row with you about it over a bottle of wine with no grudges held.

Also, different friends have different areas of expertise – one will be your trusted source of fashion advice, while another is the one who reads the Economist and can tell you about the economic crash.

Magazines online need to do the same job – be the source of what Meyer calls ‘processed information’, on a subject in which the magazine excels.

One way to making money writing online is to write about how to make money writing online.

The blogroll on the right is full of people who do this. Few of them will make money from their blogs directly. But as long as they spew out useful or interesting ideas, people will pay them to teach, talk, or write columns.

Words are your loss leader.

A brand new blog, gathering together a load of thoughts, comments and rants that have thus far been atomised across the web. You can read what this blog is for here.

First post is fittingly some thoughts on this recent post from Jeff Jarvis, his own response to posts by Paul Farhi and Roy Greenslade.

The debate: is it journalists’ own fault that their trade is now teetering on the brink of extinction?

Farhi and Greenslade’s position is no: the lowly journalists are not to blame, and instead it’s the blame should be pinned to the suits – the business folk who failed to adapt or invest quickly enough to keep pace with huge economic and technological changes.

Bullshit, says Jarvis: journalists should have taken an active role in shaping new business models, should have engaged with new media and new relationships, and should not have assumed that they had a right to paid for doing what they do in the way they currently do it.

Both sides of the argument are put forward in an uncompromising, both have flaws.

Jarvis nails the holes in Farhi’s argument in particular, and his professed desire to empower journalists rather than beat them up is admirable. But that touches on a hole in his own argument – namely that the old MSM was never set up to empower journalists to be involved in the business side of the operation, and traditional journalism training has never covered this vital aspect of the real world.

I know of countless journalists who are sitting frustrated in media institutions desperately trying to get changed enacted or new ideas assimilated, and being ignored. Without management buy-in, it’s impossible to change existing structures or working patterns – which brings us back to the suits.

The suits sign off the major decisions, particularly if they involve investment. The suits have the power. So while it is fine to say that journalists as a large group could have done more to embrace the new world, I can guarantee that there are a wealth of great ideas from ground roots journalists that have been rejected because a suit doesn’t understand them or the idea doesn’t fit easily onto an existing spreadsheet.

We can remedy this. Of course, journalists need to learn from the suits. They need to be actively involved in coming up with new business models. But that will only happen in existing media organisations if the journalists are actually listened to.