The Independent recently announced that it would soon cease to produce a physical form of their journalism. However, customers can continue to read the newspaper on their phones and tablets, for a price.
This is a move which has been discussed for a number of years. Many times this threat has lurked over the physical newspaper. And The Independent is the first to take the leap of faith into the abyss.
They’re now a newspaper without a newspaper. And that makes no sense to me what so ever.
What Is A Newspaper Publisher Without A Newspaper?
Well, it’s important we address this issue first. They may continue to class themselves as a newspaper, but I refuse to agree. They’re just an online news outlet, and no different to BuzzFeed.
They all produce top-quality content, so The Independent will become no further up the hierarchy than others.
However, they will design, distribute and sell a compilation of news articles in a newspaper layout, but as a digital version.
Fine. The digital newspaper is a great idea. 20 years ago we’d have been amazed that we could read an article, tap it, and then have a video with further information pop up. Plus you have infinite space for in-depth analysis.
But the problem I have with this model is that they’ll still charge for the content. And of course, why shouldn’t they? You get what you pay for in life.
Because you can get it somewhere else for free.
The Sun tried a paywall on their website. You couldn’t access their articles without paying for the pleasure. But what did everyone do? Go to The Daily Mail website instead. And thus, the paywall has been demolished, and that was only a few months ago.
Audiences are far more fickle than they used to be. In the Internet age, brand loyalty doesn’t exist. If someone visits a website and they can’t find the bit of information they want within a few seconds, they go somewhere else. Google is to blame… And that’s also true for most things in life.
The only successful way of making money online is to sell advertising. Putting a price on a collection of pixels which can be used in any way the highest bidder chooses. That’s the future.
The Love Affair With Newspapers
I am a fan of this Internet lark. After all, it allows me to publish to an infinite number of people in a relatively cheap fashion. I am in control of my own publishing house.
But at the end of the day, nothing beats the physical newspaper.
Like many people, I love their feel, texture and smell. I find them beautiful; even when there isn’t a naked woman on Page 3.
It is the newspaper which sparked my fascination with the written form. We may not have had a paid daily often in our house often, but it was marvellous when we did.
And of course, we still got the free weekly newspaper delivered. And one of my proudest moments to date is getting articles I’ve written published in written form in the local rag. And then seeing and holding that newspaper in my hands.
But conversely, I also know that what I’m saying is no different to people saying that they loved the smell of the steam engine. We demand progress but regret the consequences.
Newspapers often think that people are falling out of love with newspapers because fewer people are buying them. But I don’t think that’s strictly true.
Their disappearance is unthinkable. The thought of not seeing them abandoned on trains saddens me.
Online content just doesn’t hold the same clout as an actual newspaper.
Will an online-only edition really help to hold politicians accountable? Or will it just get forgotten and become unloved?
The Decline In Readership Isn’t New
It’s been happening for years, to all newspapers. It’s just that some outlets have been better at hiding it.
Did you know that the free editions of newspapers you find in hospital waiting rooms still count towards the circulation numbers? A publisher could just dump a hundred outside a hospital, and they all count.
And ever wondered why tabloids get cheaper in December? It’s not because they know you’re struggling to afford Christmas, but rather because that’s the month when circulation numbers are recorded.
The Independent created a tabloid version of their newspaper as a way of making money to fund themselves. The i was born.
And I think it’s one of the greatest things to happen in journalism recently. I think the days of the massive broadsheet, which you’d need an empty room to successfully open and consume, are gone.
It was a great compromise. People wanted the quality journalism of a broadsheet with the manoeuvrability of a tabloid. And 20p.
I claim it a startling success, and the future of The Independent. Except, they’re now selling it.
So now I’m not really sure what that means. And none of this makes sense when Trinity Mirror (owner of Daily Mirror and other daily newspapers) is announcing a new daily newspaper called New Day.
The Death Of Journalism
So is The Independent’s decision short-sighted or far-sighted? And are they wrong or right?
Well, when it involves the culling of around a 100 jobs, it’s bad. Especially when they cover this fact up by saying the move will create 25 new jobs.
But journalism is worthless today. And I know I’m part of the problem.
I am one of the thousands of journalism graduates churned out by the universities every year. In training to do so, we’ve made ourselves worthless. There are too many of us going around.
That’s why there are so many of us unemployed, working in shops, or writing copy to get companies more sales and a higher position on Google.
Plus editors now feel they no longer have to pay writers. They fill their websites with content produced by people desperate to get their writings seen, that they don’t charge.
The editor of Huffington Post seems to somehow think that he is doing a service by not paying his writers. He feels it’s more ‘authentic’ if it isn’t being written for the purpose of getting paid. Presumably, he also takes no wage to ensure his work is authentic…
But it is because of this that I fear journalism is at risk of extinction.
Any idiot can type some nonsense and put it online, or record themselves talking to a camera… Ahem… So it does raise the question? Why would you pay for it?
And my answer?
I wouldn’t pay for content online. But to pick a newspaper up from the corner shop? Now that I would pay for. And I don’t think I’m alone.
I mean, how will people do their daily crossword now? By scrawling all over their iPad with a Sharpie?