Recently I have been commenting on changes underway in the media, especially with regard to the disruptive impact of the Internet upon traditional print media.
Now the issue seems to have erupted in NZ, especially in the NZ Blogosphere with the announcement by Barry Colman, publisher of National Business Review, that he intends placing 20% of NBR website content behind a pay barrier. For this he intends to charge a massive NZ$298 per annum.
Lance Wiggs has written an excellent analysis the whole is well worth reading, but in Colman’s announcement – rant as some have called it – Colman wrote the following
And to add to the madness it has been the aggregators that have profited the most from the supply of that free news copy.
This is an indication that the NBR leaders don’t really understand the current news internet business model. The aggregators, such as google news, are driving traffic to the NBR site, and without them the NBR would be even worse of than it is. By locking them out of the subscription area NBR will dramatically reduce their ability to make their compelling, orginal and timely content available to the world. The writers behind the wall will lose relevance, and the newspaper itself will diminish.
Colman is thus falling into the trap that others elsewhere have done.
In this regard I suspect the good people at NBR may not have read the excellent essay on the future of media by New York University digital media scholar Clay Shirky, entitled Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable. They should read as well a piece by Steven Johnson, a speech he gave, Old Growth Media and the Future of News. These two pieces foresee a radical, indeed brutal shake up of the media landscape.
Andrew Keen writing in the UK Independent commented:-
Their media may have been different, but their shocking messages were the same: newspapers are history, the two visionaries agreed. The traditional business is no longer viable, Shirky and Johnson both announced; newspapers are being replaced by futuristic digital news networks that will barely resemble their archaic print ancestors.
It seems to me that NBR and others have yet to recognize this.
Now as to what takes the place of traditional media I do not know, nor I suspect does anyone else.
To a considerable extent I think that to date many in the media in Australasia see the web as an adjunct and an alternative, rather than as the dynamic change mechanism that it is in reality. Indeed, some media really do not seem to ‘get’ the internet at all.
We live as the Chinese curse would have it ‘In interesting times’. Certainly as Bob Dylan wrote ‘the times they are a-changing’. This change will have major cultural impact as well as impact on the mechanism of information delivery.
As Andrew Keen additionally commented:-
As Shirky wrote, “this what real revolutions are like.” They are invariably bloody and chaotic events in which “the old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place.” Non American journalists, publishers and editors should take note; like the unsentimental Clay Shirky and Steven Johnson, they must dare to think the unthinkable and imagine the unimaginable.
Are our media owners doing this or are they merely reacting. Is their attitude similar to the peculiar comments expressed by Richard Posner recently over the need to restrict or stop hyperlinking.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. We are in a time of change and one where the full disruptive effect of technological change has yet to impact and the extent of the changes is as yet not visible in all respects.