PRINT TRUTH: ‘Newspapers in print are clearly going away. I think you’re an idiot if you think that’s not happening.’Posted: April 12, 2013
Fail to understand the changing landscape and very soon you won’t have a job.
It’s something I’ve been banging on about for some time now and It’s true whether you are a journalist, comms person or a fifth generation pit prop maker in 1983.
A bright person a few weeks ago told me that there would always be newspapers because they’d always be there.
People thought that about coal mines once too.
There’ll always be news but there’ll always be print newspapers? Really?
As the rise of Twitter as a breaking news medium and sites like BBC that’s just not the case.
Here’s an interesting few quotes from John Paton, CEO of Digital First Ventures who own, as their website says, more than 800 print and digital products that reach 57 million customers a month.
If you aren’t taking it from me take it from a news organisation that has a $1.3 billion turnover.
They are quotes that comms people need to know about because they represent more evidence of the seismic change in the media landscape.
But why switch to Digital First as a company name?
“Digital First is my name. I’ve been saying it long before I got here. The name originally was to say very loudly — in a headline kind of way — that what we thought we did in newspapers, we had to change dramatically. And that, of course, meant digital first.
“And actually “digital first, print last.” I wanted to hammer home that this idea about the Web as something else we do was ridiculous.”
“The Web was and it should be what we do. Print is something else that we do, which happens — at this moment in time — to have almost all the revenue. But that’s not going to be our future. It was something that I named to try to hammer home that message. It’s kind of funny — I don’t think they have a “digital first” strategy at Google. They have a strategy. The name, hopefully, if we’re successful, becomes very dated.”
On paywalls and digital dimes…
“I don’t think paywalls are the answer to anything. If we’re swapping out print dollars for digital dimes, I think paywalls are a stack of pennies. We might use the pennies in transition to get where we’re going.”
On newspapers going away…
“Newspapers in print are clearly going away. I think you’re an idiot if you think that’s not happening.
On making the shift…
“I think we still are too afraid to take the kinds of risks we need to take because there’s so much money tied up in print. We have $1.3 billion in revenue. And of $1.3 billion, $900 million is advertising and $165 million of the advertising is digital advertising. Four years ago, that was almost nothing. That $165 [million] is going to have to more than double in three years. To do that, we’re going to have to take some risks on the print side. That’s the one thing that scares the [expletive] out of everybody.
“I love newspapers. I’m a newspaperman. My father was a printer. I started off as a copyboy. I love newspapers. But they don’t love me anymore.”
You can read the whole interview here.
That’s something worth reflecting on.
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Published in 1999 as the product of a web forum the 95 points sketches out how the social web will work and what the future will look like.
It’s bold stuff. The old way of doing things are dead. Thanks to the web people can organise themselves far faster than organisations. The organisation that fails to realise all this will be left behind.
Not all of the points have come true. But enough have to make a closer reading of the original 95-points part of your reading list. The 10 year anniversary paperback with essays around the subject is worth a punt. But the original list will do just fine.
For those on the bow wave of innovation this will be nothing new. But to comms people coming to terms with the changing landscape it’s good advice.
For me, the thing that shines through really clearly is the importance of using the human voice.
On the social web, the streams that, in the wise words of blogger Adrian Short ‘speak human’ are the ones that connect best and in times of stress have some social capital to fall back on. Social capital, by the way, is the indefinable sense of appreciation when someone talks to you like a human and even helps you out on a thing or two.
Just to whet your appetite here are 16 of them comms people need to know right here:
- Markets are conversations.
- Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
- Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
- Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
- The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.
- In just a few more years, the current homogenized “voice” of business—the sound of mission statements and brochures—will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.
- Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.
- Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.
- Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships.
- Public Relations does not relate to the public. Companies are deeply afraid of their markets.
- To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities.
- You’re invited, but it’s our world. Take your shoes off at the door. If you want to barter with us, get down off that camel!
- We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall Street Journal.
- We know some people from your company. They’re pretty cool online. Do you have any more like that you’re hiding? Can they come out and play?
- Our allegiance is to ourselves—our friends, our new allies and acquaintances.
- We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.
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But it’s the landscape of change that all comms people need to understand.
There are some wonderful things happening in some unexpected places in Britain. In towns and villages people are using the internet to connect and build things. I’ve long thought that the best grassroots innovation is happening outside of London. That can be a remote Scottish library using Twitter brilliantly, a Welsh town converting folk knowledge to Wikipedia or local government countryside ranger building an online community. All these things play a part in their communities.
What also strikes me is that scratching the surface of a community and you’ll find the web used in imaganitive ways.
Take the borough of Telford & Wrekin, for example. It has 170,000 people and a surprisingly high number of roundabouts. It has a small town distrust of its neighbours but a pride in the communities that make up the place.
Just recently there was a brewcamp staged there. This was an informal meet-up at a café that has been staged elsewhere in the wider West Midlands. Around 20 people came. The debate was good but the ideas that emerged were as arrestingly good as the cake.
A connected town
1. Letting a blogger live stream a council meeting and use a bingo card to liven it up
A resident from the Lightmoor Life blog used an iPhone to stream a council meeting to show democracy in action. They made a note of when the items were so people could go back and see the items for themselves. You can see that here.
Marvellously, there was a bingo card where viewers were encouraged to take a drink when key politicians mentioned idiosyncratic phrases. That’s lovely.
2. Using football as a way to talk about dementia.
Telford United as a community-run club have good links with its fans. Pete Jackson and others used the idea of football to encourage people to learn more about that issue.
For the most part a football fan’s recollections are not of the goals but of the crowd, the terraces, who you went with or the long drive home from that away game.
You can see a YouTube clip that tells more about the project here.
3. Connecting people through civic pride
Telford has large parts of it built as new town built in the Sixties and Seventies.
It doesn’t always have the heritage or roots of other places but there is a pride and nostalgia for that early vision of how Telford was going to be.
Telford Live posted scanned pictures from a scrapbook that recorded those early visions.
4. A museum that tweets
Coalbrookdale is a world heritage site and deservedly so. It’s where the industrial revolution truly started. They have a Twitter stream that’s engaging and informative.
5. A campaign to save a cinema using the web
Bright residents have a vision to return the Clifton cinema in Wellington back to use as just that. A cinema. They are organising in real life but have a web resource to tell people what is happening.
6. Wellington soup
The brilliant Wellington soup website aims to celebrate the good things and stir up some extra ones. It’s a central place where people can organise, seek help and bounce ideas. It’s brilliant and it’s here.
As the site says:
What are the ingredients that make a town interesting; that make it bubble with activity? And whose job is it to find those ingredients and throw them into the pot? Councils and governments spend millions trying to make places work, economically, socially and culturally, and rightly so. But they can’t do it all. The small local projects that bring neighbours together; the little shops that brighten up a street; the fetes and festivals, markets and fairs, plays and concerts - most of them start a long way from council offices.
7. If you are born in Lightmoor you get a tree planted in an orchard.
Which is such a cracking idea.
That’s Telford and that’s all a bit great. If that’s happening that’s off the beaten track just imagine what’s happening elsewhere.
I’m sure that the communities of Telford and Wrekin have pockets of connectivity and areas that just aren’t on line. But they’re making broad brushes on a canvas that are connecting and informing.
As a comms person that’s a fascinating landscape.
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We’d talked about the old days when we were both reporters at a daily newspaper and we smiled as we reminisced at old war stories.
Then our talk turned to the future for newspapers and a dark cloud drifted over our chat.
I spoke of how newspapers needed to be digital first and think of the web ahead of print.
I spoke of how bloggers shouldn’t always be seen as the enemy but people to work with when you can.
I talked of how the bright newspaper should link back, attribute and ask for permission before using content.
I mentioned how annoyed bloggers get when their content is lifted.
“But this has always happened,” my former colleague angrily said.
“They should just stop being precious. Think about when you lifted a story from another newspaper.”
The reporter was right. In the dog-eat-dog battle between papers we’d never dream of attributing a tale to a rival paper.
But this is just the point.
Blogs are not newspapers nor do they want to be.
They’re put together often by community spirited residents. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are awful.
But treating bloggers as the enemy all the time is missing the point.
The way newspapers should deal with bloggers is the same as how they’ve always dealt with contributors whether they be the village contributor from Gnosall for the Stafford Newsletter or the U13 match report writer for the Stourbridge News.
They’re relationships to nurture and encourage.
Then a rather wonderful thing happened today which made me think of this conversation.
A Walsall Advertiser reporter Helen Draycott asked a blogger via Twitter for permission to re-use images from the Walsall night market in the Walsall Advertiser.
The blogger, Brownhills Bob, agreed for a £10 donation to charity.
@brownhillsbob would we be able to use these in the Advertiser?
— Helen Draycott (@helen_marie83) March 29, 2013
@brownhillsbob The editor is going to arrange a donation. Could you let me know what credit to put in the paper with the photos? Thanks.
— Helen Draycott (@helen_marie83) April 2, 2013
That’s how we should all look to engage with residents whether they be bloggers or someone who has taken a good image that you’d like to add to your corporate website.
If the answer is ‘no’ don’t take it personally.
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