Monthly Archives: July 2011

The way forward for newspapers

As the newspaper industry struggles to cope with its declining physical sales, analysts propose the solution going forward.

Can they reinvent themselves before its too late?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The daily and Sunday newspapers in the UK are hardly making a profit. Sales are dropping with each passing year. Previously, we talked about how shareholder expectations played a major role in the downward spiral of a once flourishing industry. But, is there a way to revive this medium?

Dr Roman Gerodimos, senior lecturer in Global Current Affairs at Bournemouth University, said, ‘Local newspapers fail to have a hook with the younger generation. People don’t dislike newspapers, it’s just that the current system is not working; something like i on the other hand, is working.’

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the i had a daily circulation of over 100,000 copies in January this year. In the same post, Andrew Mullins, managing director of i and The Independent, said: ‘i’s first ABC figures prove that our belief in quality print media has not been misplaced.’

The Paywall

One year back The Times introduced the paywall. It immediately lost 90% of its online readership. A year on, it claims to have 100,000 subscribers behind its paywall. These individuals pay £2 a month for exclusive content.

Blogger, journalist and co-author of The Online Journalism Handbook, Paul Bradshaw, discusses the shortcomings of the paywall, its benefits and the importance of standing out when you’re behind one:


Chris Wheal, former editor of Insurance Times and contributor to The Guardian says, ‘When people go onto Amazon, they go to PayPal. People will forget that there was a brief period where everything on the net was free; they will get used to paying.’

But best-selling author Andy McDermott, whose novels have been sold in 30 countries and translated in 25 languages worldwide says, ‘If I find a paywall, I won’t bother reading it. If its news, I’ll read it on the BBC. I’m sure Rupert Murdoch hates the fact that we have a publicly funded body like the BBC for something he could have used to his benefit.’

Dr Gerodimos says that brand loyalty will play a big part in determining whether people will pay for exclusive content.

What are the other options newspapers have at their disposal to entice audiences in an age where they are fighting for attention with other forms of online and offline communication?

Multimedia and apps

Wheal says it all comes down to multimedia and utilizing all the tools on the web.

‘Local newspapers need to engage with audiences better. They are getting boring and mundane. Journalists need to be able to do audio, video and learn how to use social media. You need to engage with your readers. They are no longer passive consumers of content.’

Bradshaw says a new platform has emerged with the evolution of tablets like the iPad: ‘Newspapers today are having to deal with different types of consumption behaviour across multiple platforms. Apps can look attractive as there’s a payment mechanism built into it. But it can be misleadingly easy to think that you’re going to put out content and people will pay for it. People still have browsers on those platforms and can still access content for free.’

But media mogul Rupert Murdoch believes that the iPad will be the “game changer” for newspapers. His son James Murdoch, News Corp’s Europe and Asia chief told this website, ‘The problem with apps is that they are much more directly cannibalistic of the print products than the website. People interact with it much more like they do with the traditional product.’

Will apps be the future or will interactive multimedia determine the way news is shaped and consumed? Guess we’ll just have to take our ‘tablet’ and keep an eye on the web.

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The writing is on the wall

Bookshops, publishing houses, high streets, libraries and literary festivals were all used to popularize books in the past. But today, apart from one medium, the rest have all suffered a major setback owing to the internet. Award-winning authors and renowned publishers discuss the demise of the book trade.

The Last Rare Bookshop

Melvin Clark, owner of Bournemouth’s last rare and second-hand bookshop explains the collapse of his industry because of the internet.


Middlemen not needed

The rise in online readership has coincided with the collapse of the high street bookshops. Borders UK has closed down, while Waterstones are in retrenchment.

John Mitchinson, who was the first Managing Director of Waterstones says, ‘The old model is wasteful. Quarter of the books published are destroyed every year. Only one in five books that are commissioned back their advances. The average author earns £16,000 a year; take out the top-10 and its only £4,000.’

Digital author Michelle Dry explains why it makes more sense for authors to go digital: ‘Published authors earn 10% of the revenue generated from their books because a lot of money is lost between the final edit and hitting the racks in bookstores. This money goes to a literary agent, literary editor, publisher and for shelf-space, printing, marketing, sales, inventory, etc.’

Authors, like Dry, have realized that by publishing a book online they can pocket 70% of the revenue they generate from book sales. With websites like Amazon, Smashwords and Kindle, the process of self-publishing online just got a whole lot easier.

But Dr James Pope, senior media lecturer at Bournemouth University, believes that it is only a matter of time before the online publishing fad wears off: ‘The power of publishing houses cannot be underestimated. They will never go completely out of business. They have the budget to get you noticed, to present you at festivals and fairs, get you on TV and radio. In a while we will settle back to organisations doing a better job for a writer than a writer can do for themselves.’

Libraries need a makeover

If people prefer buying books online, does this mean they prefer reading it at home as well. What, then, does this mean for libraries in the UK?

Dr Pope believes that we are currently witnessing the slow demise of libraries because the government will not support media developments that will help sustain them. For example, he would like to see it as a place where people can go to access iPads and work on the latest digital technology.

But a state-of-the-art library in Poole fails to attract customers even though it has reinvented itself beyond books.


The curious case of literary festivals

Now when you assume that the book trade is dying and libraries aren’t getting footfalls, it’s almost a given that literary festivals too would suffer the same fate. However, the situation seems to be exactly the opposite.

Sue Luminati, who organised the Poole Literary Festival last year, said, ‘Literary festivals in England are massive. There are loads of them all over the country. They tend to be smaller, lower key events.’

She adds, ‘When you see an author speaking close to you, it broadens your mind, uplifts you and does everything good festivals should do. Festivals today are doing literature, music and food, so it’s not only a literary festival.’

Mitchinson, too, believes its the face-to-face connection with authors that works in favour of literary festivals.

Dr Pope compares this to the music industry in the UK. He says, ‘All of the record companies are really keen to get in on live music. Collecting albums is not what it used to be; people are spending more on going to live music festivals. Maybe that’s the same with literary festivals. It just means that the emphasis has shifted from sitting at home and reading to interacting and discussing about writing and reading.’