I just finished reading this great TechCrunch op-ed written by MG Siegler. He believes newspapers, such as the New York Times, that pin their hopes on large-screen e-readers, prove that they have not grasped the challenges posed by the internet.
Part of his argument is based on the immediacy of online news, and he says:
It’s not the “paper” part of newspaper that’s the problem, it’s the “news.” As in, newspapers are way too slow at delivering it in the age of the Internet.
This is a good point and he goes on to suggest online news is the solution, but e-readers are not. I am not so sure it follows that e-readers cannot be part of the solution. After all, with the right connectivity they could become a very attractive way of browsing the net, including newspaper websites and blogs.
But this all skirts round the real problem of commercial sustainability in news organisations. MG suggests that:
…there is something to be said for good journalism, but that is being done online as well — and can be viewed for free.
But how long can good journalism carry on being viewed for free? This point is brought into stark contrast by this line:
But books are fundamentally different from newspapers. There isn’t a free online equivalent to books, like the newspapers have to contend with in blogs.
This, I think, sums up the current problem with journalism. This statement assumes authors of books are unique and valuable in a way that journalists are not.
The task at hand for the traditional media is to remind people of the value of good journalism – as something that has to be paid for. Good journalists deliver value because of the access they gain, the training they receive to write clearly, capture information through interview and investigation, and know the laws surrounding defamation and libel.
In fact, many of the best blogs are attached to media websites and written by professional journalists. And many of the best independent bloggers have learned the skills of the journalist, and earn money from their blogs through the blunt tool of advertising. The smart solution for newspapers and blogs will ultimately be the same – getting paid for what you do by charging the people who benefit from your work.
E-readers such as the big-screen-Kindle will be part of the solution, by helping broaden the appeal of online journalism and blogging alike.