Thursday, January 13, 2011

The paper's place in a digital world

I've a piece on the ABC, 'The paper's place in a digital world'.

At the risk of writing the achingly obvious: I've no problem with online news and opinion.

But I'm trying to reveal what will keep folks buying newspapers, particularly of the ink-and-paper variety. A sample:
The French philosopher Albert Camus once summed up modern man: “He fornicated and read the newspapers.” Over fifty years later, things have changed.

The birth rate is healthy enough, but we’re not as enamoured with the dailies. Newspapers are still influential; still bought, read, fumed at and wept over. The daily rag complements toast and coffee for many; still punctuates office breaks, doctors’ waiting rooms and caf√©s.

But the reign of newspapers is over. Circulation is down – a decline that began with the rise of television, and the end of the evening newspaper. Now dailies are competing with free-to-air and cable television, and countless online information outlets, amateur and professional. Online they’re giving away the very stories they charge for on paper. And online advertising is not always delivering dividends. The ‘new business model’ for the news media is something of a holy grail – and equally as mysterious, possibly mythic.

Meanwhile, journalism itself is criticised on at least two fronts. One side says editors and journalists have lost their standards to commercial pressure, overwork and the blending of entertainment and news. Another side says the newshound’s craft is archaic in a world of bloggers, Twitterers, Wikileakers.

The result is a double failure of confidence: in the business of daily print news, and the staff who write it.
(Photo: Daniel Boud, with extra thanks to MH)

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