The discussion around paid content in journalism has moved on from the silly, binary free versus paid discussion to a sense that journalism has always been paid for by a mix of revenue from advertisers and revenue from readers. That mix is changing and is quite fluid at the moment. As some news groups ask people to pay for content they used to receive for free, leaders in those groups will have to ask: Will consumers see a change from free to paid as simply a change in price or a change in their relationship to news organisations? Consumers will accept one but reject, often with disastrous results, the other.
Since the arrival of digital media, most of the innovation has been focused on the editorial side of the business, while the advertising side of the business has largely stuck to pre-digital models like display advertising. Now, we’re starting to see real innovation on the ad side at news organisations. Can it turn around the flagging fortunes of news organisations?
What job does a newspapers do in the digital age? This isn’t to say that a newspaper has no role, but it is to say that just as news organisations need to transform digitally, they also need to transform their print products. This dual-transformation has been key to Clark Gilbert’s success in the US, and changes at the Financial Times underscore the importance of rethinking print and while radically transforming to serve digital audiences.
John Thompson of Journalism.co.uk has just tweeted some amazing stats about Finland’s largest daily newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, from the World Publishing Expo 2013. One jumped out in particular that 42 percent of their subscribers pay for digital content. That is nothing short of astounding, and I do hope that Journalism.co.uk highlights how they have been able to achieve that.
News organisations are still facing a lot of challenges. You only have to look at continued cost cutting at large groups including Tribune Group and Gannett as well as the failure to launch of Reuters Next to see that we’re still in a period of significant disruption. However, we are also learning how to be more nimble and experiment more successfully, and Joy Mayer and LSE’s Charlie Beckett’s have some good suggestions on how to get better faster.
Quartz, the newest member of The Atlantic Media network, launched in 2012, but by July, it already had 5 m users and said that it had already passed The Economist’s web traffic in the US and would soon pass the Financial Times, and Jay Lauf, the publisher of the site, kicked off Journalism.co.uk’s News Rewired 2013 talking about the strategy… Read more →
Last night, I had the pleasure of hearing a talk by Clay Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, at the RSA in London. In his talk, he laid out why short-term, finance driven goals were choking the US and UK economies of job-creating empowering innovations. I’ve summarised his talk and a brief conversation I had with him about journalism and innovation. If you are a manager and want to know how to deal with disruption in your business, Christensen has the ideas to help you seize the initiative.
Last week, I wrote about why print-digital integration was the wrong response to digital disruption, and since then, I’ve been looking at Clark Gilbert’s ideas in more depth. I’ve found the video of a presentation he gave at the Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation, and it is well worth an hour and a half of your time. His digital division is growing revenue at 40 percent year-over-year, revenue that he is plowing back into journalism. His ideas challenge conventional wisdom, but he offers hope to embattled news groups that are willing to try a different strategy.
Justin Smith has delivered on his vision for taking traditional media brands into the digital age at The Economist, The Week and The Atlantic. Digiday has his opening email to his new staff at Bloomberg, and it’s a great call to action.
In a post that originally appeared on The Media Briefing, I look at how newspapers responded to digital disruption and whether integration was precisely the wrong response. Clark Gilbert, who worked with Clay Christensen at Harvard University, has applied Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma in practice at the Deseret News. He argues for a dual-transformation of the legacy print business while also setting up a disruptive digital business. If you merge the two, the legacy business often “suck(s) the life out of” the digital disruptive business, he argues.