Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Recession Chronicles: Build the Wall

Peter Tobia and Carl Juste have been engaging in several conversations regarding the state of journalism and the demise of the newspaper industry. Here are some highlights.

CPJ: There is an interesting debate on how newspaper can charge for content. It is interesting and important discussion but till this date (July 19th, 2009) newsrooms, papers, and readers are steadily on the decline. Why has it taken so long for the industry to develop an affective response to this crisis?

PT: The Morton Plan was proposed months ago about charging for content with a deadline of July 4th. Newspapers across the country couldn't get it together by then. It amazes me how newspapers drag their feet and continue to do so even when the writing has been on the wall for years.

CPJ: I find the piece CJR's Build the wall,, interesting through it gave me a sense of it being a last minute plea prior to the industry's execution. I don't think the industry really cares about the 4th State, or quality journalism, since most of the decisions concerning the daily management of various papers are made in the interest bottom line instead of sustaining high-end journalism. I am trying to make sense of an industry which has helped shape my adult professional life, but for some strange reason I find it hard to reconcile what I have been taught with what is.

PT: With layoffs and cuts in newsrooms how is strong, compelling and thoughtful content suppose to make readers want to pay for content? It is unfortunate to witness the newspaper industry imploding due to poor management and lack of creative vision. The excitement in many newsrooms is gone along with the soul of the paper.

Posted by John Granatino on Thu 16 Jul 2009 on CJR's website:

My issue with publishers building an interactive strategy of charging for content is that the very act of charging effectively closes the doors on any number of new interactive businesses that publishers might reasonably pursue. Charging for content is a strategy that places the survival of the existing product first and ignores the needs of businesses and consumers who might otherwise help publishers create numerous new revenue streams. Instead of thinking of the online newspaper as an end in and of itself (or as a way to support printed newspapers), think of it as the entry point into a system of interlocking new products and services. The free newspaper Web site is the aggregation magnet that brings a large audience into the system. The site then qualifies those customers for a wide variety of other products and services that meet the needs of paying business customers (e.g., lead-generation services, transaction fulfillment services, audience development and management services, and so on). If you strangle the size of your original audience by charging them (in the notion that the only business opportunity before you is porting the newspaper over to the Web), you stifle any number of opportunities down the pipeline, opportunities that are made possible by a free and easy-to-access aggregation site up front.