Monday, March 2, 2009

How to get people to pay us for doing our jobs

This is a topic that has created some ruffled feathers in the Carleton MJ blogosphere lately: Are we walking into a profession that, like the music industry, offers a product people want but refuse to pay for because you can find it free on the internet?

We're not the only ones talking about this. Here's a sample of some views from other media types:

Alan Mutter says newspapers were crazy to offer content for free online in the first place, and they're crazy if they don't start charging people for it now. He also has a really good point about how aggregates like Drudge Report are cleaning up by selling ads on websites that get zillions of hits a day that do nothing but link to content they didn't have to pay to produce. Yikes. Never thought of that.

Paul Robinson says newspapers have been undermining their own ad revenue for years by offering free online adspace to try and entice advertisers to buy print space. He also has a point form list of things newspapers should do to revive their business model. This is my favourite one

"Customers do not want to pay for anything. Ever. You have to work hard to convince them it’s worthwhile. You’re doing an awful job of that, so stop trying to do it."

Steve Yelvington has some good but depressing points about why he doesn't think the idea of providing news through iTunes-like software will work.

Meranda Watling wrote a really interesting post that includes the concept of "the silo effect," in which media types only listen to each other and not the readers, leading them to come up with bizarre theories about why people aren't reading newspapers any more that have nothing to do with reality. She talked to quite a few people who understand why having fewer reporters on old-fashioned beats with less time to do investigative work is a bad, bad, bad thing. I commented gushingly on her post. I am a geek. Whatever.

What do I think? I think offering everything for free online obviously isn't working, as evidenced by the media bankruptcy armageddon that's going on right now. I think making people pay a subscription fee to access individual newspapers' websites won't work, either, because people will just go elsewhere and no one will see those precious ads on your site. I agree 100% with Meranda Watling that media types are too cynical about public demand for things like city hall and school board beat reporting. People want and need that information.

I am sick of this leap in logic: People aren't buying newspapers and are getting their news online instead, therefore they don't care about thoughtful, investigative print reporting and are more interested in 15 billion live tweets and sound/video clips a day than one balanced, well-researched article, therefore let's send out our one remaining employed reporter to the news conference armed with a mic, a video camera, a still camera and a blackberry like a one woman marching band and give her half an hour to file. 

Media types consume that type of journalism and go "Oh, new, cool, the way of the future!" Normal people consume that type of journalism and go "What the heck is this, who has time to look at all this stuff, and how come I still don't know how this affects me?"

I'm not as cynical as Steve Yelvington about the iTunes model. People are buying those ebook things these days, right? And iPhones? There's gotta be some sort of subscription model to an aggregate that tailors the news you buy to your interests.

One thing that's different about music and news: People don't just like news, they need news. And they need it continuously. They will never get all the news they need and say, OK, my news collection is now complete. I realize that the fact that music and news are very different is part of Yelvington's point about why the iTunes model won't work, but there's got to be some way to take that into account.

1 comment:

Sonya said...

Yes, yes, good points especially about the flawed leap in logic.

Now could you turn this into a multimedia presentation with a slideshow and audio clips by 6?