How profitable is it to go digital? Is there even profit? How can we manage to ‘stay modern’ and how will our business cope with the probable transition to digital publishing? These are the very questions that many publishers of print media might have asked themselves 10 or so years ago.
How can we increase the demand for our digital newspaper? How can we create interactive functions to satisfy the demands of our reactive audience and how can we simultaneously stay reliable? These are some of the questions that publishers of print and digital media might ask themselves today.
It seems a waste of energy, money and time finding out who can provide the most successful publishing platforms. I think this competition does not even have a fundamental basis as the new digital era of publishing offers extremely different forms of publishing that are not able to compete.
One example of the new publishing forms is YouTube. As the name clearly articulates, it provides its user with the possibility to autonomously produce, edit and publish individual content on an international, searchable and social interactive basis that is independent from time and space. It goes without saying that this new self-expressive tool is one of the many that showed how our society seemed to have craved for the chance to have a public voice and to create self-directed information. It also goes without saying that solely user-generated content incorporates another type of reliability and credibility than a finely researched and observed article in The New York Times.
New social trends and interests, such as performed on YouTube, forced traditional publishing to go with the flow and to react, transit and convert, while simultaneously staying with their original ethics. To increase the low revenues many people in the publishing business had to do career shifts and find themselves now in new job roles, such as freelance journalists, bloggers, online editors and online publishers etc. But the shift to a digital appearance wasn’t solely enough. Joe Coscarelli displays in his article “The New York Times Is Now Supported by Readers, Not Advertisers” how revenues continued to fall and how online advertising and introducing online subscriptions were the only ways to keep businesses going (Coscarelli, 2012).
One important aspect of this is outlined by Ken Doctor, who writes about the success of paywalls as not only being economically successful but also having shown that “it’s served as a statement that millions of readers value the Times enough to pay a fair amount of money for it. It shows people care” (Doctor, 2013), thus acknowledge its credibility.
Nonetheless, Mr Doctor talks about the issue of plateaued revenues in 2013 confronting publishers again with a new task to further develop their online self to keep the business going (Doctor,2013). I think it is quite obvious that an orientation on new/social media helps and impacts eventually on the profitability. Nowadays, all the digital newspapers have interlinks, similarly to those on Wikipedia, have interactive functions, where readers can provide feedback, and have an appearance on social media in form of an interactive member. These functions help a lot to stay timely and to use every opportunity the new era of publishing offers.
So what? What’s the moral of the story? I personally think that we all have to distinguish. On the one hand we have social media with all its functions and infinite publication and self-expression opportunities and on the other hand we have newspapers whose credible sources we don’t want to miss out on (at least I don’t). If we acknowledge that they are both completely different sources with varying opportunities, origins and philosophies behind them, there is no real competition or ultimate decision of whether to use the one or the other needed anymore. Why not gain benefits from both?
Of course there is the financial difference between those two forms and Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief at The Guardian, makes a fair point by reminding that paywalls contribute to the economic justification but speak against the idea of free journalism and the new sociological engagement with online information (Busfield, 2010). Nonetheless, I think if one isn’t an immediate eyewitness to current issues, reliable information provision depends on expertise knowledge, thorough research and professional presentation of findings. No one who is equipped with these characteristics would really execute them for nothing. Therefore I’m happy to pay for my online subscription but I also know where I can find live backchannels to major events presented in subjective online communities.
- Busfield, Steve (2010) ‘Guardian editor hits back at paywalls’, The Guardian, January 25, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/jan/25/guardian-editor-paywalls>
- Coscarelli, Joe (2012) ‘The New York Times Is Now Supported by Readers, Not Advertisers’, com, June 26, <http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2012/07/new-york-times-supported-by-readers-not-advertisers.html>.
- Doctor, Ken (2013) ‘The newsonomics of The New York Times’ Paywalls 2.0’, Nieman Journalism Lab, November 21, <http://www.niemanlab.org/2013/11/the-newsonomics-of-the-new-york-times-paywalls-2-0/>