Saturday, October 17, 2009

The New News

They say that every dog has its day, and it seems that day has long passed for Rupert Murdoch, who reportedly said recently:

“Successful newspapers of the future will charge for their content and ggregators will largely be excluded. I’m convinced that quality news is more valuable than ever.”

There are a number of problems with this conceit.

The idea that newspapers provide quality or unique news is laughable - many of Murdoch's papers spend their time espousing his political and world views (as do many other newspapers around the world for their owners, of course). Also, the newsdesks of the major newspapers now get many of their stories from a handful of news agencies such as AP and Reuters. Indeed, what are newspapers if they are not aggregators ?

News is no longer news: the news that many people want is largely manufactured in a way that would have made William Randolph Hearst blush. See the way the BBC stuffs its news programmes with plugs for its other programmes and the endless stories based on manufactured celebrities.

The timeliness of news is now as important as the content - and the agreggators and services such as Twitter are much better at this than mainstream newspaper websites.

The idea that consumers will pay for anything is a challenge. There may be exceptions - consumers are likely to pay for convenience, for example. The challenge of finding a payment model that works is a very tough one (although NewsCorp has been historically very successful at this).

Indeed, you might ask what news is; the day of the Storyteller wandering from village to village in the Middle Ages, telling tales and weaving in news of the wider world has evolved to world where people publish their personal news on blogs and Twitter and share their news on Facebook. Like many other things in society, news has fragmented. Putting it back together again is what aggregators do best.

There is nothing more dangerous in business than wishful thinking and imagining the way you think things should be, not how they are.