Newspapers Panic In New Publishing World

Only a few days after our discussion about the negative effect that might be caused if the newspaper industry decides to return to paywall media, PSFK...

Piers Fawkes, PSFK
Piers Fawkes, PSFK on July 27, 2009. @piers_fawkes

Image Credit: Getty Images, ilarialucianiphotos/Flickr

Only a few days after our discussion about the negative effect that might be caused if the newspaper industry decides to return to paywall media, PSFK notices a number of articles that point to continued confusion about what the industry should do in the new (and free) media economy.

Seeking A Share Of A Fraction Of Pennies

Several news organizations are considering using a service called Attributor which searches out republication of articles on other sites and blogs and requests the republisher pay a fee. The system would somehow work out how much revenue each re-publisher was making in advertising and demand a percentage. Meanwhile, the Associated Press seems to think it can put some special code into its HTML that will track the republication of its content.

PSFK can’t quite understand how this would work as the numbers don’t add up. Smaller bloggers and machine-automated-scrapers who republish articles in full make such such small revenues per article the effort wouldn’t be worthwhile; and larger bloggers who might be making revenues through advertising tend to have noted how to excerpt and stay on the right side of ‘fair use’ and therefore can’t be pursued. In fact, top blog sites know that the republication of their content is widespread and that it’s better to get on with publishing than pursue the so-called pirates. Also, these republishers often link to the original source and therefore increase the ‘Google-juice’ of the original publisher.

Giveaway Madness

Free giveaways are nothing new for the newspaper industry. They have built audiences for years on the giveaway of prizes and gift sets but a report in Brand Republic suggests that the publishers are becoming more frantic in their approach. Last weekend there were over a dozen promotions in British newspapers to encourage sales – from free travel books in the Guardian to free sharpie pens in the Sun.

Coupon Cutting

Meanwhile, media-commentator Jeff Jarvis argues that the coupon, a newspaper revenue staple, is in transition and that it is unlikely that coupon-cutters will be gathering coupons from direct mail and newspapers (local and national) in the future. He suggests that someone will ‘craigslist’ the couponing system (probably via the mobile phone) and that the reduced costs will cause retailers and product sellers who use this promotional method to focus their efforts online.

Premium Cul-De-Sac

Despite the fact they failed to make premium subscription work as a business model before, the New York Times seems to be exploring the concept of charging for its content again. Paywall ideas being researched by the publisher includes charging for archive material (again) and offering first look at news stories before they are published on the site or newspaper. PSFK isn’t too sure how in this hyper connected world the New York Times is going to guarantee much of its news is going to be brand new when services like RSS and Google news brings you the latest news from every publication possible.

Scoop Delusion

Connected to the sector’s hopes on premium, there also seems to be some belief that the newspaper industries ability to ‘scoop’ will save print. An article in the New York Times looks at the aggressive behavior of British tabloid newspapers suggests that UK bloggers aren’t really competing in journalism space. It’s interesting to note though that the paper does mention that one of the major political scandals of 2009 was started by a blogger – a blogger who decided (this time) to go to the traditional press rather than use his own blog. PSFK would argue that in this case the blogger chose the route to spread the story the furthest and and that British blogging has always been a little behind in terms of online publishing trends seen in the US. It’s a just a matter of time before we see British versions of Huffington Posts and Perez Hiltons with mainstream audiences challenging the status quo very soon.

The publishing sector needs to realize that it’s undergoing the same major upheaval that the music industry has went through. After a decade of disruption, colossal change and shrinkage, it’s only now that the music industry is beginning to work out how to grow again. Newspapers still have a long way to go (including shrinkage) before they get to a similar stage.


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