Ladies and gentlemen. As always thank you for downloading and listening to this podcast and indeed both past episodes as well. This episode comes with a bit of a twist. To honour the focus we are to make to content, free content, on the internet this podcast will be avaliable in the .ogg vorbis file format as well as the conventional .mp3 format. For those of you who are listening, rather than reading this podcast, a link has been provided on the blog to the .ogg vorbis website. A file format which is patent free but undoubtaly should be the future of audio.
For those of you who are regular visitors to the blog you may have noticed the design change. This will be coupled with new features such as the ability to track down all my social networking activity by selecting “Social Stream”. I have had very flattering feedback from a couple of people requesting that they receive email updates when new content has been uploaded to the website. Unfortunately I don’t really have enough time to do this personally (as much as I would love to). Over the next few weeks though an optional registration system will be put in place to give you this option. Of course, you can always subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.
An inky squirt
The topic of discussion we are to delve into today is really a cliché. It has been one of those questions which had always lurked around generation y like an inky dark cloud without any silver lining.
Is print dead?
Perhaps the profound question behind this concentration is simply asking a question about the future of content. Content which drives people to earn their money so that they in turn may use their money to purchase content. Print is really just a physical form of content which can be found on the internet. Of course it must be realised that the majority of the content which can be found on the internet doesn’t cost anything, not even an old American dime. Whereas the cost of print sells information.
Please forgive me as I stray into this next, currently unknown, tangent. In the slightly more geeky corners of the internet we have an open source movement which, in its fundamental form, is against any commercially created entity. Open source in programming terms means that a program’s code is officially owned by no one… One can’t help but notice the company or individual who created the program in the first place but once created you can change/adapt the code anyway you like and pass the program on as your own. This movement can typically be found within the Linux Operating System circles of which a small part of my life I was part of. This began with the joys of Simply Mepis Linux and then I saw the Gnome side and moved to Ubuntu Linux. (For those of you perplexed to what Gnome might be, or even KDE, then a link has been provided on the blog). The point of this movement is that it is seen as pure. A program has been created by normal guys, not seeking after profit but for the joys of technology. Incidentally Linux has arguably been at the forefront of ideas when it comes to how a user interacts with their operating system of choice. Opensource generally proves itself by showing…
Free is Good
Perhaps not all the time. The point of this tangent is that the vast majority of information on the internet is free and very good. Why go out and buy a newspaper when I could just access the BBC News website? Even use Google or Yahoo news to view a cosmic amount of reports, available completely free online. At the very sad news of Michael Jackson’s death or at least speculated death I was sat in the pub with a couple of friends carefully navigating through messages on Twitter referring to various news reports concerning the event. The timing of Jackson’s sad death had meant the papers were unable to piece a news headline together for the next day. To my knowledge only The Sun managed to get a headline out in time, by what I assume must have been a quick re-print. This is one of known downfalls of print media, it takes time. Time is something which frankly have no time for these days. Publishing an article on the internet takes a fraction of a second, a far more efficient method than printing thousands of newspapers. The internet pretty much guarantees up-to-date information whereas a newspaper is already out of date once it has been purchased. If it wasn’t for the crossword or useful culture sections of a newspaper then I would find it difficult ever even considering spending my hard earned cash on newspapers. Older people shouldn’t be surprised when my generation admit to not reading the papers. Often students could be blamed with being out of touch with current events but really the lack of reading newspapers may mean a much more current knowledge than the person who spends on papers. I might not be completely correct there but I hope you get what I am trying to say.
Papers are now second best. There is a new kid on the block who wields the power of news far more efficiently, freely and interactively. Don’t write a letter, submit a comment. Don’t wait for the newspaper for the news, read it online. Don’t buy the news, it is now un-necessary to do so.
But wait just one second. All of that just seems too simple.
Death of online media?
So the current track record of newspaper doesn’t seem too pleasing. We are struggling to find a purpose for this almost antique method of dispersing news but what is happening on the digital side?
Technorati released its “State of the Blogosphere 2008” report examining the predicted 188.9 million audience of the internet and found that, in the US, blogs have a captured audience of 77.7 million visitors. An increasing difficulty has been found with which sites qualify as blogs or mainstream websites. This has had small effects on how the word “blog” should be defined. The report also indicates that the blogosphere is still developing, which may partly be why a definition is difficult to find. Blogs have proved worthy to the media ecosystem as many feature in top 10 lists with regards to topics. It has also been noticed that the average blogger has been posting for three years. This seems accurate as I have been posting for just over 2 years (on different blogs mind you).
Although Technorati’s report seems to suggest a very healthy blogging environment this does not seem to be the case with some other studies. It has been observed that whilst a large number of blogs are being created the majority of them are not being maintained. A name I urge you to remember is a gentleman called David Sifry who takes the widely known Technorati report and generates another concerned with the broader range of social media on the internet. This is commonly known as “The State of the Live Web” report.
The blogging medium has been observed to still be in growth, still maturing. Over 120,000 blogs are being created everyday (with only a slight dip during Christmas) which roughly means a one blog is being created each second of every day. A fairly crazy thought really. Blogs are on the increase and so is their place with regards to how they are approached compared to the mainstream media. More blogs have entered the top 100 most popular websites on the internet.
I could keep travelling deeper and deeper into the analytical details of the blogosphere but I will leave that to your own choosing. I have provided links on my blog referring to the sources I have used.
The problem in the blogging world begins when we look at how many blogs are being maintained regularly. Statistics have revealed that 60% – 80% percent of all blogs are abandoned within one month. This has meant that the “average blog” has the lifespan of a fruit fly. The result means that almost 3 million blogs are only updated every couple of months or have been completely abandoned.
So now we cast our eye over Twitter. “Oh no, not Twitter again. Can’t people stop going on about bloody Twitter? Why are you such a twazzock?” I know, I know. The only reason I am looking at Twitter with regards to online/digital media is that it has formed a very surprising backbone between blogs and other social networking websites. I believe this will only increase the possibility of Google Wave taking the throne in the future. After all, Nicholas Carr said that, “Twitter is the telegraph system of Web 2.0”. (Web 2.0 can now be found in the dictionary)
Unfortunately, despite all the hype Twitter has received, 10% of Twitter users provide 90% of the content. The majority of users who have joined Twitter have only tweeted once. I know this is true for my Dad. The reason for this has been put down quite simply to “Twitter is only a broadcast medium”. To an extent this is true for users do broadcast their messages containing happenings, ideas, links and opinions. What is really meant by Twitter being a broadcast medium is that it does not allow for the friendly communication a network like Facebook might allow. If you would like to know more about this then feel free to read my last blog entry “Twittercide”.
I know from speaking with others that many can’t be bothered to maintain another social networking website, don’t understand what Twitter is all about and even if they did would find it difficult to write anything interesting. These are a few of the, more personal problems, Twitter encounters with being a network. Twitter certainly is not made for everybody.
Just an observation
What I did there was really just quickly skim over some of the details concerning the social web. I don’t have nearly enough time, key strokes or breath to delve into every nook and cranny of social media. However I hope the quick look at Blogging and Twitter has been useful.
Back to print!
I could have made you think that I have in fact forgotten what the title of today’s podcast/article is all about. The question has been put forward about ‘Is Print Dead?’ and I intent to answer it… eventually.
Rupert Murdoch has revealed that he believes the business model for newspapers is malfunctioning. Quite right. It can’t be said that newspapers are standing still waiting for their supposed demise. There have been small changes over the years, I believe the most recent ones to be the most interesting.
Recently newspapers have been shifting towards a smaller size, in 2003 The Independent started to produce a tabloid sized edition. The Times has followed in a similar manner along with The Guardian which has produced a mid-sized paper between broadsheet and tabloid, known as Berliner. The reduction in size has increased the sales of newspapers but arguably temporarily. Sales of newspapers have been decreasing since 2004 and there is no reason to suggest why this should stop unless something radical is done about it. I am sure Rupert Murdock would be inclined to agree with me on this point. We have had the radical press, now the press needs a radical change. A change far more radical than providing pictures of partially nude women in newspapers to make some quick sales. Internet news sites can achieve high readership levels without the need of boobs ‘n’ bits, why can’t newspapers? Because ultimately, a newspaper is a product which has to be actively picked up on the shelf, a desirable need to spend for content.
Content, content, content again. There are possibly dozens of reasons to why there is a decline of newspaper sales. Admittedly I can only think of a few. Notably how advertising has declined in an economy which has been bled dry by debt. My local Guardian newspaper for Sutton (locally known as slutton) had to stop trading for a few weeks because of a lack of advertising revenue. This has been a fairly widespread phenomenon for locally distributed newspapers. As the United Kingdom is a small island local newspapers aren’t as prominent compared to a large land masses such as America. The problems with the advertising industry, the large costs for promotion has created problems for funding printed publications across the board; Newspapers and magazines alike. Subscription seems like the only real alternative to avoid the problems the advertising industry is facing (May I add that PR is still in growth? Fantastic)
A view I have held for a while and only recently come to light within the media is the advent of a digital subscription to newspapers. What if you could download a newspaper to your eBook reader and have a digital copy of your newspaper sent to it every day. I guess the proposed view is why not just view a news website on your PDA? This is just the problem, there are a minefield of problems for the future of printed media. Perhaps the balance will be found with premium content? Of course the real challenge comes from the BBC which will seemingly provide content completely free due to the license fee. The BBC does give value for money and big corporations cannot compete with this.
So is the problem really with the print media or instead with the whole industry of news? How are journalists meant to make their money? The structure of content on the internet is fairly simple as I explained earlier, it should be free… but should it? One of my dreams would be to be a journalist but people still need to earn their living. The industry is certainly in trouble, no doubt about it. Regrettably I don’t really have the answers. As the philosopher Daniel Dennet wrote in his book “Breaking the Spell” the real task of philosophy is to find the right question to ask, not to find the answers. I believe we together, reader/listener, have come to a profound moment in our discussion, our muse.
The question really in our discussion is how is news meant to make money in the digital age? The answer to this question will, in my view, will answer our question ‘Is Print Dead?’ To purchase a newspaper is a public convenience. We cannot pretend to ignore the growth of free newspapers within the United Kingdom. If any of you have visited London (or indeed any other city recently) you will know that free newspapers are everywhere. In central London there will almost be a newspaper man giving away papers for free around every corner. In a tube stations every few yards lies a free newspaper pick up point. If you have failed to find a newspaper on the pavements, under the city, then you will mostly certainly find an abandoned free newspaper on the train. On the whole, these newspapers are fantastic reads and causes the consumer to ask further questions about newspapers. Newspapers might be a commodity but are they really worth the money we spend? After all, we can now easily get newspapers for free. I would rather save the money.
Save that money and journalists unfortunately lose their jobs. Some journalists aren’t able to find another job back into journalism, some make the move into Public Relations and others, who were lucky enough to keep working, are most passionate to see the journalism industry survive and evolve with the times. A blog I highly recommend reading is by a lady called Gina Chen, especially her post, “What newspapers can learn from sewing machine companies”.
Is this the end?
A joke is always made about conclusions. How it is needless and unnecessary to read or listen to the bulk of an article when you could just skip to the conclusion. In conclusion I must admit that I do not yet have a full opinion about the state of print media. We have to remember that print media, in regards to books, still works. eBook readers have been disappointing sales and have shown that even in a digital age paper can still serve a purpose. Newspapers on the other hand are dying, not quite dead, but getting there. This could be said for the whole trade of journalism, the trade of opinion. To buy opinion when you can view and write it on the internet is harmful of the trade. Something needs to be done to fix the journalism industry, which is another article altogether…
And if I ever have an idea about the business model needed to save the newspaper industry then don’t go searching for it on my blog. Such an idea would be too precious, too important, to give away for free.
I hope you have enjoyed reading/listening to this article and until next time.
Good bye x