Saturday, 7 March 2009

The future

With all this misery at the moment about how this whole industry is doomed I started to think about the future of newspapers.
Undoubtedly newspapers can and still do make dosh. In some cases they are making a lot of dosh. No matter what the useless management tools tell you about how newspapers are dead and the web is the future, this is mainly bollocks.
People still want to know what is going on around them and many people still do not use the internet to get hold of that information.
But if you are producing a shoddy rag of a paper filled with press releases and cheque presentations from a central news centre 50 miles from the actual town, who will read or buy that?
Over time advertisers drop out the paper gets smaller and less people read it.
The title inevitably closes, ending sometimes a print run of more than one hundred years. This is scandalous but there is a very real reason behind it.
The internet has exceptionally low running fees, no print costs, low staffing levels, no need to distribute it or sell it in shops - essentially as long as your servers are big enough there is no stopping the size or scale of the site.
This is the real reason the big companies are paring newspapers to the bone and closing titles that were making profits as little as five years ago.
They want news print to die so they can make more money. Ask your MD when they are a bit drunk at the next Christmas do (like Christmas is not forever cancelled) they may just admit it.
But there is a way to carry on printing. I have come to the conclusion the only way newspapers will survive is to remove them from the hands of the big owners. Take them back from Newsquest, Trinity Mirror, Northcliffe et al. and get them back into independent hands. Remove the greed factor for starters, get rid of shareholders and fat cat directors who only look at the numbers and not the brilliant work we do.
As long as the title makes a profit - and believe it or not many of them still do - they are sustainable.
This way staff at the papers can pay themselves a half decent wage through a healthy profit share. We can have investment in editorial to create a product people want to read again rather than something fit for cat litter. Have the company run by its staff and not bean counters. If it's making a profit the newspaper and all those precious jobs are saved.
Journalism shouldn't be all about the money.
Bring it back to the area. Open a small office in the town centre, become a part of the community again, become relevant, become necessary, start setting the agenda again.
I am a firm believer in local newspapers and with a bit more thought about their role in the future - especially with the demise of the celebrity obsessed national media - we might just start saving our industry.
Let's lose the fat cat management arseholes first though.

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