LA Times Editor Dean Baquet has been forced out. Well, I’m crying no tears. Someone in the news business pushed me yesterday with the idea that Baquet was doing God’s work and I went ballistic. Quite the contrary, I said, rather than pushing to preserve the past, he should have been pushing his bosses to be investing in the future. He should have been investing in networked journalism to take the paper hyperlocal and in online and audio and video to take the paper past paper. He should have made his own cuts in the old newsroom to pay for those investments. He should have had a vision and strategy for the future. Whining at corporate is no damned strategy at all. Dean Baquet was dangerous for journalism because he was defending the past rather than fighting for the future. Bye-bye now.
Yesterday, I ranted about newspapers’ failure to invent new ways to serve advertisers, ceding the business to Google. Today I read on Greenslade a discussion of classifieds, Google, and newspapers at the Society of Editors. There is the usual debate in such gatherings: Is Google a friend or foe? I say that’s the wrong question. They should be asking: What is Google doing that we should be doing? How can we be doing it? What will Google do next? Can we get there first? And what can Google do that we can’t and how do we take advantage of that? Google is a reality. Arguing about whether it is friend or foe will do no more good than sitting back and watching it do what you should be doing. Google is still trying to figure out its proper role in this ecosystem. Read the last paragraph from Stephen Brooks’ coverage on Greenslade to see that:
Classified advertising could vanish from newspaper print editions by the year 2020, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger suggested to the Society of Editors in Glasgow.
Participating in a panel about the media in 2020 that included Nathan Stoll, the product manager of Google News, Rusbridger was up front in saying that he had no definitive answers about the future, writes Stephen Brook. “The honest answer to the question is nobody knows,” Rusbridger told the audience in a lively panel session which included much discussion about how newspapers will survive Google hoovering up much advertising.
“I predict that classified advertising could disappear from newspapers by 2020,” Rusbridger said. Classified adverts from the Guardian print edition were declining by about 9% a year while internet advertising on Guardian Unlimited was growing by about 50% each year – but from a much lower base. The Guardian was attempting to monetise its recruitment revenues with the launch of Guardian Recruitment Services, a full recruitment organisation rather than just a classified advertising service.
“Nobody in newspapers can decide if Google is the friend or their enemy,” Rusbridger said. “The friendly bit is that they drive lots of traffic back to us and we might be able to monetise that. What’s happening at the moment is that Google is hovering up stupendous amounts of money on the back of our content.
Robin Esser, executive managing editor of the Daily Mail, agreed. “The wider the message is spread the better but we need to be able to monetise that.” . . .
The youthful Google News chief said that the company was in the search and advertising business. “We are not content creators”. The next step for Google News is to do a better job in treating original content. “What we try and do is make sure than traffic goes to who properly produced a piece of work.” The Google News search algorithms will be refined to “expose original journalism”. The ultimate aim would be to build an “online ecosystem of publishers that is healthy”.
More coverage from the Press Gazette.
Guardian Editor-in-Chief Alan Rusbridger speaking to the Society of Editors endorses networked journalism and media agnosticism — pointing to NewAssignment.net and the Sunlight Foundation:
The future for newspapers was one beyond text, he said. Last week the Guardian was on eight platforms ranging from a video report on Newsnight to podcasts on iTunes. “I don’t spend time losing sleep over whether there will be a paper or not because there is nothing I can do about it,” he said. He predicted that reporters will become converged newsgathers. All reporters will work in at least five media and networked journalism would see professionals and amateurs working together to get the real story, but he left open the question of who would edit it.
“I think you have to prepared to be surprised and you have to experiment like mad.”
SkyNews also presented an omnimedia view:
Thus Sky News will revamp its website so that its rolling news channel would be on its website. But web users will search for keywords and call up and play news clips on the topics that they want. Audiences will also call up news clips from a menu and send in clips from news events via mobile phones. Web users will customise the Sky News web page, so that the stories in their favourite topic areas are more prominent. A new digital channel Sky News 501, will offer TV viewers the same variety of options from the website.
My Guardian column this week is on newspapers’ free fall, pulling together some of what I’ve been writing here lately (registration-free link here). Snippet:
What disturbs me most is not the news, but the news industry’s reaction. Where we should be seeing aggressive, strategic leaps into the future, we instead hear the mournful braying of editorial Eeyores.