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The Future of the Newspaper – Part Two

7 minute read

Whilst Rupert Murdoch may extol the brilliance of his newspapers journalism, however his history and facts really tell a different story. Over the past decade newspapers across the globe including Rupert’s have culled journalists from their payroll amid cost blowouts and shrinking readerships. It is not uncommon these days for one journalist to have 5 roles within the one newspaper.

Meet reporter John Brinkwater, Motoring Expert, Religious Affairs Reporter, Political Correspondent, Pet Expert and Love Guru.

How funny it is that Rupert and the newspaper industry will now turn to the same journalistic stocks and plead with them to save their companies. We will now see the newspaper industry invest in generations of reporters- apparently giving you stories you will want to pay for – I just love the irony of it all.

Rupert can do it!

If the idea is to simply provide the same articles online as you find in the printed version it will fail and Rupert knows this, the online version has to be so much more than just a newspaper, it has to be a an extension of the newspaper and the audience that newspapers serves, it has to be a digital world that involves its readers so much more.

Here are some things that the online version will need to be if it is to succeed.

Rockstars
Journalists will now become Rockstars, meet Miranda Devine and Peter FitzSimons, two journalists with strong opinions, loyal followers and equally loyal antagonists. People read articles from these journalists because they either want to believe them or want to disagree.

Today, they write articles for the Sydney Morning Herald, tomorrow they will be thrust into a new limelight, they will have their own Rockstar page, you will be able to see all of their articles and even have them read to you, you will be able to see them give video responses to some of the readers letters and every so often they will be online to chat to a group and discuss the days article.

Beat Journalists
We will also see the return of the beat journalist, the gritty no hold barred reporters that infiltrate the seedy side of town, those that provide a social commentary on the streets we live in. We will see new stories that go deeper into our political spectrum and spit in the face of any reference to any word ending in ‘gate’. We will see editors screaming at them to finish the story or come up with something quickly (like in every movie depicting a journalist) and we will see real news items ‘breaking’ rather than some petty rubbish at an Iguana cafe.

Forums
We will see real forums like http://fora.tv/ and real talks like the ones found at www.ted.com. A hot news topic of the day could end in a weekly forum at SMH’s offices, beamed online to a participating audience. We are not talking about International happenings we are taking about real local issues. Whether it be about building developments, education, social services, sport, religion, health or politics, people are interested in forums about local issues.

Talks are a different thing, however there are brilliant people every single week jetting into Sydney, Melbourne etc that we would want to listen to like Christopher Hitchens or Britney Spears, who of course, in a world first could ‘lip sync’ a speech!

Immerse your audience
I disagree with Miranda Devine about a lot of things, I also agree with her some things, although I would say I am more passionate about the things I disagree on (I think we all are – you never see people marching with signs ‘I am pretty happy about public transport). I have even written to her (Miranda) once or twice explaining why I disagree with her.

But I want a website where I can voice my opinion, no mater how wrong I might be. I also want to create my own little world that others would explore, I might wish to become a little bit of a journalist Rockstar myself. I can chose any article to respond to from my ‘Dashboard’, I can write it, create a video response and even an audio response. I might even want to become a reporter myself and give the option for advertisers to advertise on my page on SMH as it becomes more and more popular and share in the revenues with the newspaper. When I join, I choose my areas of interest ranked 1 – 10 and my page rebuilds giving me the information , news, videos, forums, goods and services that match my interests. I can write, buy, sell, promote anything from this page!

Devices
All of this should be available on any device I choose, desktop, mobile or on the move with any one of the tablet devices (Kindle) we will see hitting the streets in the next few years.

Advertising
The advertising in online newspapers has to get smarter and get local. Newspapers currently rely on big advertisers and this is just dumb and is one of the major reasons they are hurting.

If I am sitting at my desk in Bondi, the advertising on the page for the most part should be local. If I am reading the Age Newspaper on my Kindle passing through Footscray the advertising should be about the area I am in. If it is around dinner time the advertising should be about restaurants, pubs, live music, theatre etc. It should also be about my tastes, I would be happy to provide non deep personal details to get what I want.

If newspapers can build a smarter platform for advertisers they can engage advertisers to the local level, opening up billions of dollars of extra revenue. It also has to be built to work for the advertiser, it has to be built around set micro payments and it has to be 100% automated.

I should be able to log on as a Mosman Realtor and see an article about homes in Mosman and click a button to place an ad on that page for anyone reading it within certain suburbs and certain demographics. It should only cost tens of dollars per day!

Mashups
Open your newspapers up, open your databases, let the development world come in and play and you will open up so many ideas at the base. It absolutely amazes me how scared and dumb these organisations are. You only have to look around the web to see how much innovation comes from mashups.

Ideas Vault
Finally, here is the all important ingredient. Invest in ideas. Incumbent media companies have got themselves in so much financial trouble because they thought they could simply buy ideas. They have to set up teams within their organisations that only answer to the board. This small team of 10 programmers, 2 designers and one manager would just build stuff, anything, they would be allowed access to any information and would just be an ideas vault. Some things would make it and some wouldn’t but by investment a few million each year in this team, they can avid catastrophically costly purchases of the past.

If the online newspaper is to successfully move to a paid for subscription it has to be so much more than just a newspaper. I think it can be done, bit I don’t know if the current leaders of big media are smart enough to do it.

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