Communication Leadership Blog
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.
TechCrunch reports that online advertising revenues dropped significantly over the last quarter, suggesting that the recession has come to online ad sales. With Google, Yahoo!, AOL and Microsoft reporting on their finances for the quarter, Web revenue dropped 2 percent from last year and 7 percent from the fourth quarter.
Allowing comments on news stories is increasingly common, despite the potential pitfalls. One of the benefits of comments section can actually be increased pageviews which translate into increased online advertising dollars. It keeps readers at the site longer, can create a community of users, and increases the interaction between producers and consumers of news. All of this may result in added revenue.
When pressed at Monday's briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs expressed concern over the failing newspaper industry, but stated, "I don't know what, in all honesty, government can do about it." Even as Sen. John Kerry begins holding hearings this week on the state of the newspaper industry, it appears that the White House is not planning imminent action.
The Detroit Free Press has partnered with a local CBS affiliate, WWJ-TV, to launch a morning news show. The program will air two hours each weekday morning, and feature content produced by the newspaper's journalists, in addition to updates on weather and traffic.