Once again I was asked by a student to answer a few questions about Online Journalism. Devina Morjaria is a final year student writing a dissertation regarding decline in print and rise in online journalism, one of my favorite subjects. There are a few good questions here and some not so bad answers.
1) As an online journalist do you feel that there has been a decline in print journalism and rise in online journalism since the millennium?
The steady decline of print journalism begun in the late eighties, long before online journalism had a real expression. The problem is that that decline became more clear as digital journalism started to become more common and users had better access to the Internet. In my view, there is not a real correlation between the rise of one and the fall of the other. Print journalism was already failing before online journalism took its place in our everyday lives.
2) Either way why do you think that this is the case?
I can only guess, but probably print was failing to deliver quality content for a long time. Besides, the widespread use of cable tv and rolling 24 hour news channels made the product less interesting, we got on the front pages what we saw live the night before. Online journalism made that problem even more acute, with users checking news more often through out the day, losing the morning paper or the evening news ritual. The print product is pretty much the same as it was 20, 30, 40 years ago, it is not well adapted to these new circumstances, therefore it needs to be re-thought and re-designed. But that is not really happening.
3) What makes you more inclined towards online journalism than print?
Online journalism allows journalists and users to create/consume stories using different and new types of languages and features. Multimedia and Interactivity are two essential characteristics of this medium, and if we add social tools it becomes a whole new ball game. Access is also important, I can read/watch/listen news from thousands of news brands around the world. Geography is no longer a limit, but a parameter.
4) Some say newspapers will be dead in 10 years time. What do you think?
I think many will be, unless they re-think and take the most of their natural news cycle and out of their support, paper. Magazinification of newspapers is an option, with more in depth analysis, more opinion, giving more space to good writing and relying on better visuals. They have to be more original and stand out from the ever shrinking crowd, and become stronger in their viewpoints and personality, instead of feeding readers with the same stuff the competition does. Less fast food, more gourmet. But this depends on the markets they’re in and on how much they can invest.
5) Is the online sector currently facing any problems like the print sector?
From my experience, the whole industry is going through an identity crisis. Except for a few media groups, many don’t have a defined strategy to cope with the new demands the online brought. In the last years we saw journalists being fired left and right when there is the need for more people with more skills in the newsrooms. This affects not only the online production but also print. Good journalism is affected too, with not enough time for journalists to do their best. So quality goes down either in print or online. So, in a way, they both face the same problem, which is basically the lack of solid strategies, the short term thinking of media group boards, and the us vs them (print vs online) mentality, that is still all too common.
6) Do you feel that for a print newspaper company to introduce an online section it invites a hit in sales in newspapers?
Well, you have to be online these days. Unless ALL your readers don’t use the internet you have to have an online presence. If both products are good there is the chance they will both benefit from it.
7) What do you think about paywalls? Do you feel that they are necessary in today’s society?
Paywalls are a tricky subject, it works for some, but not for most. I believe original, unique, highly effective content can become a commodity, but not everyday news. Media companies gather and process information. Somewhere in the middle of that there are ways to make money, other than establishing a paywall. I think most of paywalls are useless and a shot in the foot.
8) What is the online sectors main source of news?
Reality? Nowadays we see more international news, and more social network based information, but whatever is news (relevant for a meaningful number of people) gets online.
9) Is there an increase in online advertising?
According to something I read recently, yes, but it’s a marketing logic: go sell your product where people are. That’s why news stands are in the streets, and we see thousands of posters, outdoors,leaflets and every other type of ads anywhere we go. And if people are online…
10) What do you think holds for the future of journalism?
The best times for journalism are yet to come and for me there has never been a better time to be a journalist than now. The full possibilities are still being discovered, and there are so many ways to transmit information and tell stories, with a better understanding on the part of the users, that have more rich and meaningful experiences consuming them.
Please, disagree with me in the comment box. Thank you