Friday, April 17, 2009

Interesting Trends in Journalism

I have always taken a keen interest in the latest innovations in journalism. I'm especially interested these days as we all continue to be bombarded with stories on the end of journalism as we know it. I've had the chance to read a few articles that show some sparks of innovation.

First up is an experiment being done by Canada's National Post.
The Toronto-based newspaper is the first in North America to use a 2D barcode that allows readers to scan the printed paper with a mobile device to get updated digital content, reports Editor & Publisher. The cool thing is that while the 2D barcode is free, the newspaper can also use it to do contests and handle advertising, which both can boost revenue.

I was fascinated by this article in the Nieman Journalism Lab blog on what newspapers must do to grow their online news share market. Writer Martin Langeveld actually proclaims that "print is still king."

Langeveld admits that print newspaper readership continues to decline and the
Pew Research Center for People and the Press found that for the first time, more people get their news from the Internet. But then he says something controversial among print journalists: "newspapers are in no position to charge for content, with the possible exception of high-value niche content in limited circumstances."

I can see his point. Like it or not, readers have become addicted to getting the news for free. Yes, the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times have been able to make money with their paid sites, but they established them as paid models from the beginning and never wavered. Obviously, people must value the content in these two publications, since they are still in operation.

Langeveld does offer solutions to newspapers, including:
  • Blow up the organization by breaking up the enterprise, and the newsroom itself, into a series of interacting functional units that each operates in startup mode;
  • Figure out social networking: Take the leap into Web 2.0;
  • Rethink the entire content flow: Get away from the focus on a daily cycle of story production; and
  • Outsource the irrelevant: To operate nimbly in the digital world, you can’t be distracted by the business of printing, packaging and distributing.
NABJ has an important role to play in helping not only print, but all of journalism make the transition to ensure that we all still have the capacity to report the news and have viable job prospects in the future. The board has worked hard to do both, but as the jobs continue to go away, we all must do more.

Steps have been taken with the creation of the Media Institute, the series of regional NABJ conferences on multimedia (including this one May 30 in New York) and the emphasis on learning new skills at this year's annual NABJ conference in Tampa. I've been a working journalist for more than 20 years. I have worked hard to upgrade my multimedia skills -- mostly at my own initiative -- and been a vocal advocate for my brethren to do the same. I plan on bringing that passion to the NABJ board if elected Region II Director.

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