Wednesday 13 July 2011

Post Murdoch? Post Newspapers?

An esteemed writer that I once had the brief pleasure of working with has written an article arguing that what may come next post-Murdoch may be worse.

He is of course absolutely right in such a heated mob-driven climate to tell such a cautionary tale and full kudos to him for having the critical thinking capacity to even consider such a scenario whilst most lose their heads (perhaps including this writer) around him.

But I see more of an opportunity, I think, than he does.

As a function of delivering daily news, newspapers are just clung on to for the wrong reasons. They are becoming entertainment because that's all they really are now. Entertainment. Not news. Not anymore. If you want news you go online for it. You get it on your mobile whilst waiting for the bus, train, at the lights etc. Ubiquity is eating into the very soul of newspapers and there is nothing they can do to stop it.

I would even go so far as to say that in a world post Murdoch, with a freed up polity, a more disloyal digital readership, a more level playing field, with lower barriers to mass communication, with a stronger and more powerful watchdog, with stricter rules on what it means to be fit and proper in relation to owning mass print media, that perhaps the shoring up of the newspaper industry, the subsidy-led survival thus far of said dinosaur may yet yield to a newer, more interesting, more competitive, more live, more transparent source of information for people.

Witness the birth of the Huffington Post in the UK. Clearly timed to perfection. Witness the birth of thousands of credible niche blogs drawn together seamlessly by the search box on Google.

Most news online is free because it's mostly ubiquitous. Why fight that? Add value if you will and charge for access to premium content but let's accept the basic fact that in a post-google, post-iphone, increasingly mobile world (it's often said that most web activity in 2014 will for the first time be via mobile not desktops), content and thus news, especially for newspapers, is basically marketing collateral to attract ideologically interested readers, who can then be sold a plethora of other relevant content, products and services. Charging for easily-available content, in any format to be honest, is not an option.

Cynical? Too soon?

So, whilst this might not suit many, in reality, it is a massive opportunity for those able to see and grasp it. The death of Murdoch allows the UK, yet again, to leapfrog the world and especially the US. First we moved faster than all or most in terms of broadband adoption. Let's be first again and move faster in the move to a post-newspaper and even perhaps, post-news, society. What dreams may come!


  1. Hi Al,

    Thanks for the link.

    i think we agree more than disagree. when i say it's going to be worse, i mean short-term, as in the next few years. in the long, papers have to change, and murdoch leaving - taking his subsidy money with him - will hasten the process of change.

    i too am optimistic about what will eventually emerge - probably many more smaller organisations doing specific things, rather than huge orgs trying to do everything and serve everyone. i don't think Huff Po is a particularly good model though. It's highly dependent on existing news media for content (it is parasitic), and it doesn't pay its contributors. Journalists have to eat. I can see why Murdoch has been pi***ed off with aggregators stealing his content. It's not right, though i don't know what the alternative is. I'm not in favour of paywalls, as I wrote here:


  2. I suppose it is an issue of quality time, flexibility and fun. Personally i'd rather have time for a leisurely read in the sun or in the garden and i appreciate being able to read one of each occasionally of the guardian, independent, times, telegraph, observer, etc.

    let's hope those days are not over. At the doctor's, dentists i'd see some equality articles, come across some random ideas. A good thorough read, paper copy to save, file the whole paper, cut out, refer to. There's place for everything. But not all digital, please. Same goes for books. we need quality paper and quality journalism, as well as quality time rather than filling it up with all this digital and social stuff - they are only handy tools when needed.