Shirky, C, (2010), The Times’ Paywall and Newsletter Economics
Shirky’s (2010) article about The Times paywall ignited a rally of comments and goes to illustrate the ongoing pay-for-access debate. His statement about commodity seemed a little off the point considering that newspapers have been in competition with radio, TV and other media for decades (Greenslade, 2010). Have newspapers local and regional, ever been the only cow? Unlikely, there was word-of-mouth before print and with small communities, messages spread quicker than they can be written.
Looking beyond his discussion about commodity I do agree that online the newspaper enters a new dimension of competition and it is not just with other websites. John Smith who lived on Ivy Lane probably video’d the escaped elephant walking through suburbia on his phone, uploaded it to YouTube, Tweeted it and shared it with his friends on Facebook before Reuters had finished their coffee!
The internet has empowered generations to become content writers – everyone is a journalist, this is the real competition for newspapers. Understandably why would individuals pay for something they can Google and get for free, I wouldn’t. However, I would want to know that the news was credible that it came from first-hand witnesses; that the author had spoken to the ‘fat cat’ CEO on his way home not the doorman. The institution of the press gives this and can bring in-depth news to the public due to extensive networks that bloggers are unlikely to go near.
Can the printed press survive this digital shift – simply yes with transformation. As Clay (2010) says in response to Shirky’s article “I read the print edition because the print edition allows for page scanning in a way that no web version does – and this includes seeing ads that matter and acting on them – but then online I get the added value of no ink on my fingers, no paper to throw away and perhaps ongoing updates.” Newspapers provide a sensory experience, the pink of the FT, the struggle with gigantic broadsheets on the tube, that smell, scanning the inserts in front of the fire after Sunday lunch – can the web give you this?
Technological advances provide opportunities to the print industy to embrace new communication methods, one being electronic paper / electronic ink display – a display technology designed to mimic the appearance of ink on paper (Genuth, 2007). As the use of oil developed and changed so to must the press to avoid falling into the myopic trap of the railways (Levitt, 1960).
Online how will newspapers fare? By being at the cutting edge, by engaging and encouraging the world to contribute – by adopting co-creation and being free the public will soon learn where all and the most relevant news is. Advertising, special reports and category subscriptions are a simple way of generating an income going forward. However, one does have a sense of forboding for the beloved newspaper online as the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter aggregate, communicate and engage in real-time are these the newspapers of the future?
Clay, A, (2010), The Times’ Paywall and Newsletter Economics, [Online], Available: http://www.shirky.com/weblog/ [Accessed: 14th November 2010]
Genuth, I, (2007) The Future of Electronic Paper, [Online] Available: http://thefutureofthings.com/articles/1000/the-future-of-electronic-paper.html [Accessed: 14th November 2010]
Greenslade, R, (2010), More, still more, on The Times paywall debate, [Online], Available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2010/nov/10/clay-shirky-paywalls [Accessed: 14th November 2010]
Levitt, T. (1960a), Marketing Myopia, Harvard Business Review, July / August, pp.138-151
Shirky, C, (2010), The Times’ Paywall and Newsletter Economics, [Online], Available: http://www.shirky.com/weblog/ [Accessed: 14th November 2010]