The pundits continue to discuss what direction newspapers are headed – should it be digital first? Can the hard copy newspaper get back its subscribers? Politico Magazine had an article about it that Rachel talked about in a post the other week. The Politico story cited an academic study from the University of Texas that found that digital news is an inferior product and that if the industry would have stuck to hard copy, they would be in much better shape than they are today.
To counter that argument, there was a post recently on The Lean Newsroom, which says that it wasn’t so much the idea of digital that was misguided, but rather the execution.
Here’s my take on the whole digital vs hard copy. Back when the World Wide Web was infiltrating all our lives, the media industry seized on this new technology to deliver its product. Stories in the newspaper (and on television) would be only part of the story, with reporters telling us to go to “our website” to find more of the story. And we did. And the advertisers did. And then all of a sudden, we didn’t need the newspaper any more. And we didn’t need to watch the 6 p.m. news on TV any more. It was all available to us on our computer screen.
And then revenue started dropping and continued to drop and newsrooms across the country were laying off countless journalists. And the lay-offs continue, even as recently as last week. So how are you supposed to produce a quality product without quality workmanship?
I don’t think it is a matter of digital vs hard copy, I think the focus needs to return to the quality of the product. What kind of business model does the news industry need to follow that gives them the needed financial assets to keep exceptional journalists on staff, to develop a marketing strategy that consumers will respond to and that we find as much value in the daily newspaper that we are willing to pay for it right along with our $5 cup of coffee each day.