Communication Leadership Blog
The problem with news charts, maps and databases is that they all require maintenance in order to stay relevant. Without continual updating, they quickly become irrelevant and sometimes misleading. One way to prevent this, without allocating staff, is to have the charts pull directly from the available information as it is released, so that the chart is quickly updated (The Raleigh News and Observer does this with their crime graphs, culling information from law enforcement databases). Another helpful tool might be Wolfram Alpha, a powerful search engine that will answer queries and compute information.
Pricewaterhouse Coopers published a study surveyed viewers' willingness to pay for content. According to their survey, respondents were willing to pay 97 percent of the price for financial news. More promising, those surveyed said they would pay 77 percent of the full price for online sports news, and an average of 62 percent for general content. The study suggests, then, that newspapers and other news sources might be able to charge for online content, though perhaps not as much as they would like.
The Wall Street Journal, whose online paid subscriptions have risen 21 percent since 2007, will soon add a micropayment service to view its online content. The service is set to launch in autumn; the cost of each viewed article has not yet been determined. The launch of the micropayment service comes as newspapers are increasingly looking at such a business model to fund their reporting.
Ryan Tate at Gawker weighs in on yesterday's Senate hearing, offering a defense of the bloggers that some in the mainstream media criticized. Specifically, he takes issue with the claim, voiced by former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon, that bloggers do not cover the mundane, everyday issues like public meetings. Tate also highlights Arianna Huffington's argument that bloggers "chomp down on a story and stay with it, refusing to move off it until they've gotten down to the marrow."
At Wednesday's Senate hearing on the future of journalism, traditional journalists sounded alarms about their struggling industy. Yet two of the witnesses, Marissa Mayer of Google and Arianna Huffington of the eponymous Huffington Post, represented the new-media aggregators that rely on others' original content. Mayer and Huffington both had to respond to senators who highlighted their role in killing newspapers. Sen. Kerry lamented: "I see cacophony without standards. I see more and more people operating in public life with snippets, and I think that's dangerous."
Earlier this week, Amazon announced its new, larger format Kindle designed for newspapers and other larger publications. The New York Times, the Boston Globe and the Washington Post have said they will deliver newspapers on the device. News Corp's owner, Rubert Murdoch, is unconvinced. He stated that his company is not interested in handing over its content to the people who made the Kindle. Instead, he expects that one of his general newspapers will start charging for online content within the year. At yesterday's Senate hearing, Dallas Morning News exec James Moroney mirrored Murdoch's sentiment, complaining that Amazon wants 70% of subscription revenue from the newspaper.
In yesterday's broadcast, NPR's Diane Rehm interviewed four media experts about the fate of the newspaper industry: American University professor Jane Hall, blogger Alan Mutter, editor of the American Journalism Review Rem Reider, and editor of the Milkwaukee Journal-Sentiel Martin Kaiser. They discussed various options for finding a new revenue model -- newspapers going nonprofit, publishing on the Web only, changing antitrust laws and initiating new mergers.
Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and the New York Times Company are both moving closer toward charging for online content. Murdoch says his company is considering establishing a pay wall for all or part of its content within a year. The NYT is less committed; the company is still evaluating subscription and micropayment models.
A hearing called by Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry produced conflicting views over whether the federal government might play a productive role in supporting the beleaguered news industry. The publisher of the Dallas Morning News said yes. But new media representatives said a federal role would be counterproductive.
Amazon and Plastic Logic are both banking on the idea that creating a larger, Kindle-like electronic device will prove popular as the new way of consuming news. Each company is racing to complete its version of the gadget, which may prove to be the saving grace for newspapers looking for a way to charge for their content. With the devices, publishers conceivably might be able to revert to long-established business model of selling subscriptions and supporting articles with ads.
UPDATE (7/16/10): You can browse the features of Plastic Logic's on their website.