Right, well I have just wasted 20 minutes of my last day at SXSW watching what was the most dire representation of the newspaper industry I could have possibly witnessed at a world-leading conference on interactivity.
I will have to come back to who was the speaker and what was the title, because right now the need to rant overtakes the need to Google for that particular information.
The talk was by a 36-year-old US journalist who is trying to help his colleagues embrace new platforms and get to grips with the power of the social Internet.
The executive summary (before I walked out) was:
“Print is dead.”
“Time is running out.”
“It’s real hard to get journalists to blog.”
“Change isn’t happening fast enough.”
“I don’t know what the solution is.”
Well… that’s useful. I can think of at least half a dozen people who could have produced a more insightful assessment of the industry as it currently stands. I might even be so bold as to say I could have done better.
First of all, let’s stop saying that the Internet is the death of print. It is not. The Internet is the death of some print. There will always be a need to place words in places where screens can’t go. Plus text is harder to read on the screen so, for long articles, print is always going to be a more comfortable experience.
But t’s true that a large swathe of news is being repackaged into a sharper, more condensed form making it easier for busy people with busy lives to learn what they need to know quickly. This is the sort of news that needs to be taken out of print and put onto the Internet, rather than print.
The other thing is that “time is running out”. Running out for who, exactly? Running out for newspaper groups? Well, I suspect they are well aware revenues are declining and, if they don’t get their income from newspapers, then they’ll get it from elsewhere and dispose of or wind up anything that makes a loss. Running out for newspapers? Maybe… Running out for some journalists? Yes.
Yes it is really hard to get journalists to blog – mainly becuase they are tied into the busy regime of producing an outdated newspaper and see a blog post as extra work. The hard part is finding the space for them to take time out of that treadmill to realise they need to look at their work in a new way. Once you do that, and once you explain how blogging can connect you directly to readers, most are pretty open to the idea of using the platform.
I simply can’t understand all this negativity associated with the change that is happening to the newspaper industry at the moment. There are lots of things to feel positive about: blogs can help you improve your stories through reader feedback and contribution, video can help you build trust between you and the reader, mashups can help provide readers with richer data and information on the areas and topics that they are most interested in.
Those people that get this stuff right, have a bright future. I wish we’d start looking forward rather than constantly peddling the message of doom and gloom.