The new media ecosystem: lessons from newspaper publishing
This is the view of one analyst who considers that the transition to online is fatally disruptive to the current model of newspaper publishing. As a librarian at large in that industry, Richard Withey shares with us some of the lessons being learned there.
Very few newspapers can survive on cover price alone - most need (dwindling) advertising subsidies. Will "analogue" exist at all in a few decades? Analyst Sam Zell considers that the newspaper industry has been too slow to predict and react to the changes: "the newspaper industry has stood there and watched while other media enterprises have taken our bacon and run with it." Circulation has dropped massively in recent years, and the old techniques for growing circulation (giving things away - everything from CDs to home insurance) are no longer as effective - and undermine the value of the supposedly core product.
A new media "ecosystem" is emerging, with user-generated content and interactivity adding to the original methods of news publishing. This rise of collaborative publishing and new digital formats (e.g. OLED) - driven by consumers - are changing the face of communication, and it matters to all publishers. Publishers have been reluctant to engage with new models; margins have altered, audiences have fragmented and new delivery mechanisms have flourished - but shareholder expectations have not diminished accordingly.
The music industry seems now to have begun to respond successfully to these changes (following a rocky period). Broadcast media also seems to have recognised and responded to the threat. Publishers must engage with new distribution formats - RSS, social networking - and with others (e.g. ACAP) to find solutions to those sticky problems, such as copyright, which continue to block progress. "Going where the user is" is critical, as is recognising the change from provider-driven to consumer-driven publishing. "Lower the average age of your board by at least 20 years", to ensure that you are led by people who understand these developments and want change to happen, and employ only people who are building businesses rather than careers: it takes time and commitment to make major change happen. Accept that your content will be mashed up - your message is still being disseminated (but you'll need to consider new ways to make money from it).