In a world where news is dominated by what is on the news overview onGoogleand the trending topics on Twitter, it is becoming harder for more traditional news outlets to remain relevant. Do people have to pay for what they want, or is free news part of a person’s rights?
I have just watched Page One: Inside The New York Times, which as someone with an interest in media and it’s progression, was something that I have been meaning to watch since it came out last year. It shows a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at one of the world’s most established and popular Newspapers. It was not what I expected. It showed that the Journalistic giant had made mistakes, and that it was struggling in the world of modern day media. But for a printed paper, created in 1851, the fact that this publication can still sell over 2,000,000 copies in a day, is phenomenal, no matter how you look at it.
The one thing that was highlighted in the documentary, was how the drop in advertising revenue, and the reader’s want to get free news, was damaging the paper. It is said, that papers who print, lose money with every copy of a paper that they publish, as the cost of the paper needs to be affordable, for people to buy it on a daily basis. In the past, this loss was covered by the money that advertisers paid to be included in publications. As the Internet has become stronger over the last 10-15 years, companies began to start up their own websites for promotion, which was cheaper and began to lean less and less on the traditional printed media. In a world, where profit margins are becoming thinner and thinner, you can see why companies would follow the path of self-promotion.
This caused a problem for newspapers, like the New York Times, which found that their main source of revenue was disappearing. It meant that changes needed to happen, and the paper and it’s journalists would need to be more interactive with it’s audience to try and stay relevant. This involved an introduction of a website where journalists could record corresponding videos with their articles. Readers were invited to comment, and share their views, and the company began to catch up with it’s competitors in other media, such as TV. This way of publishing stories helps newspapers get a broader, even worldwide audience. Whilst this seems like a more affordable way to spread the news, but there was still a big gap in revenue, due to advertising loss. This is where the site installed a ‘paywall’, which would ask heavy users to pay a fee to continue using the site. This model has proved very successful for many online services. And has helped plug the gap in revenues, created by the drop of advertising.
And that is what a lot of people have a problem with. Why pay for something when you can Google the news for free. Google is a site, which like the way newspapers used to operate, is funded mostly by advertising revenue. The issue with advertising revenue, is it gives the reader the belief that they are viewing something that is free. Accept, it isn’t really free. Google gets paid by how many people use the service, as advertisers will pay accordingly to feature under certain searches. When up to the ‘top 10’ of results you get on google, have paid for that high ranking, you begin look further into what you’re using. That every click that you make on a google site, is collated and sold to marketing companies. You then begin to wonder, are sites like Google really free?
Another problem with the internet, is that the source is not as important as it used to be. You search for a news topic online, and will click on the one with the snappiest headline. More often than not, the photos and story may come from a single source, a source which be mentioned somewhere at the bottom of the article, if you’re lucky. And this mixed nature of ‘search engine news’, means that all sources and all work just becomes a big muddle. Where as in print, you can sometimes say, ‘I’ll read the Daily Star, because I want to read nonsense’. Or the Independent for more serious news. That definition between different publications isn’t so relevant when you Google search, and just pick one out of hundreds of results. It’s like written journalism is losing its definition.
Where this causes a problem, that whilst the bigger publications like the New York Times and The Independent can sent journalists to specific areas to cover important stories, smaller, less serious publications can’t. This means, that you can get ‘piggy-back reporting’, where smaller outlets will rehash another publications story. They report news and events, without any first hand coverage. This leads to second hand stories, which can lead to inconclusive reports and no checked sources. The only way that true, first rate articles can continue to be published, is if people start to pay attention and pay for what they read.
Because when all the newspapers go under, a loss in advertising for Google, could send them down the pay route that News outlets are currently used for. Nothing in life is free, especially not the Internet.
So check your sources, and help them, or they will stop being reliable.