- Tech & Gadgets
- BRW. lounge
Published 28 June 2012 04:08, Updated 03 July 2012 09:28
Last week the media was the news. Fairfax and News Ltd finally announced what everyone already knew – that in a digital world the cost structure for print publications was too high and had to be cut.
At Fairfax, the publisher of BRW, 1900 jobs will go over the next three years and its main metropolitan newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age will be cut to a smaller format as a digital-first strategy is introduced. News was not so open about its job cuts but the gist of its announcement was the same.
Cue much hand-ringing about the state of journalism and its future. The death knell for journalism as we know it has been rung, according to some commentators. Make no mistake, it was a sad week inside this company. But readers, editors and publishers should not equate print publishing with journalism. One is the distribution method and the other is content – they are distinct from each other and content has never had such a large audience. It is growing like a weed in the untamed jungle that is the website. In fact it’s been the very inability of established publishers to unlink the two that has brought them to their knees. Unable to conceive of a world where high-quality journalism doesn’t get delivered on paper, many of them have steadfastly ignored the changing habits of consumers.
The changes we witnessed last week are a recognition of how far major publications had strayed from their readers. To get them back, to talk to them on the platforms that readers are using is going to be tough. But what’s in peril is the format, not the function.
In fact, media has never been more fascinating or interesting than it is now. There are so many different ways of disseminating information that it is hard as an editor to keep up – but keep up we must, if not even get ahead.
Media has never been more open. Like many institutions, traditional media could operate as a closed shop, if your view or face didn’t fit, it could be hard to find a role at a large publication. Now the internet offers everyone a voice while tools such as social media offer everyone a distribution channel. Likewise it could not be a more exciting time to be a young journalist where the ability to build up a personal brand rests not in the hands of an editor but in their own hands.
As an editor it’s challenging; working across two or three platforms when you have been used to working across one requires a shift in the way that newsrooms operate. But the ability to get our stories out in so many different ways for a much larger audience than we have ever had more than makes up for this. We have never been able to have such an open dialogue with our readers – we can create a magazine that is a two-way conversation rather than a one-way lecture.
The business model is going to require a fundamental restructuring but this is a business model that’s been failing for years. As readers drifted, publishers responded by cutting prices and often quality in a search for the lowest common denominator to attract readers. This is an opportunity to create a business model that fosters quality.
Of course there will be losers, both in terms of job losses and in terms of communities that may suffer the disappearance of a familiar masthead. But journalism will survive.