Roy Greenslade used the headline “Why newspapers are doomed” this afternoon: a sure way to bring the readers to his excellent blog. Mine is second best: it is always harder to argue a negative, but here goes.
Greenslade follows a piece written for the New Media Journal by Cliff Kincaid, editor at Accuracy in Media (AIM), a right-wing watchdog that seeks to point to omissions and distortions within what it regards as America’s liberal media. This leads to his conclusion:
I’m simply trying to show my colleagues in print – especially those who revel in regarding themselves as inky dinosaurs – that they cannot hope to compete with the speed and efficiency of the net in communicating facts AND opinions. The idea that newspapers will survive because they’re better at providing comment and analysis is nonsense. Nor do we need papers to set the agenda.
Rather like Roy, I have the zeal of the converted. But he is wrong. Newspapers cannot compete on speed and he is right when he says the old-media set agenda was upset last week (see previous post). Yet, they offer other things which will ensure their survival either in print or online.
I happened, by chance, to refresh my news reader, seconds after he had posted the item so it appeared at the top of the list. If I had waited until after lunch it would have been way down the list and something else might have caught my attention.
The speed and sheer volume of material on the web makes it difficult to follow even if you are taking feeds from only sites which interest you and are on the same topic. If by chance you find something on a site with which you are not familiar you have to establish its credibility. This is all time consuming: there is too much noise out there.
To build a picture you have to look at and evaluate several web pages at least. That is the job of journalists like Greenslade. Most people do not have the time.
They want the picture built for them by an organisation which has views they are generally in sympathy with, and trust. Newspapers and broadcasters (we are in an era of convergence) fulfil that function.
Many newspapers are doomed but others will survive and will continue to print on paper for the medium term, at least. The only successful ones will be successful on the web and, with audio and video, will be much changed. The constant will be that they examine news feeds, provide new material, mediate and present the news and comment their audiences want. One day they may be entirely on the web but they will still be “newspapers”.