The news industry is one of those that has been most radically affected by the rising importance of firstly the web and more recently mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad. Some are coping better than others.
Niche publications that have taken to the web with gusto have seen successes. This very paper’s (newly redesigned) website attracts an enormous amount of traffic and has become a serious asset rather than a threat. Others have not done so well.
However you look at it though, the future of news is inextricably linked with the world of web and mobile technologies. The question for everyone is ‘how?’ and the question for Derry’s digital industries is ‘how can we benefit?’
A hint of where those opportunities might lie in a handful of big media announcements from the last week.
First off we had the launch of The Daily, the first daily newspaper developed specifically for the iPad. Developed by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and priced at 99c a week or $39.99 a year, it is designed to make best use of the interactive features of the iPad and, they hope, create a new, viable, digital platform that can potentially provide a new model going forward.
As it says in their press release: “The Daily’s unique mix of text, photography, audio, video, information graphics, touch interactivity and real-time data and social feeds provides its editors with the ability to decide not only which stories are most important - but also the best format to deliver these stories to their readers.”
A few days later came the announcement that AOL had bought mega-blog-cum-news-and-opinion-site The Huffington Post for over $300 million. Interestingly, the Huffington Post does not pay for the content it develops. Instead it curates content from other sources and unpaid writers (the likes of Barack Obama included). The move is AOL’s latest acquisition, with past buys including Moviefone, Popeater, Engadget and Techcrunch - all content driven and all pretty niche. AOL is already massive (although a large chunk of their monthly pageviews come via their dwindling dial-up internet access business) but clearly their aim is to focus on content driving eyeballs and charging advertisers for access to those eyeballs.
Creating that much content goes well beyond the domain of a staffroom full of journalists. The Huffington Post got scale by finding innovative ways of sourcing content, and no doubt AOL wants some of that magic to rub off on them too. The site’s founder Arriana Huffington is to head up the new media division which will house the Huffington Post and other sites.
Combine the two and you start to get a feel for how news is changing and where those opportunities may lie. Firstly, news is no longer everything that’s fit to print but rather everything that’s fit to print, publish online, upload to YouTube, tweet or develop into an app. New formats create new possibilities for both transitional/blended models (i.e. traditional news organisations taking bigger digital steps) and native digital applications like The Daily. The opportunities here lie both in content development (translating analog copy onto digital platforms with all the bells and whistles) and in starting completely new publications with clear(er) revenue models via mobile devices (assuming it works).
Secondly, we can see that news is no longer solely the domain of journalists - and even where it is, there are alternatives to newsrooms full of full-time staffers. Just up the road in Belfast, start-up Newsrupt is challenging how this process runs with some exciting mobile and web apps for journalists and newspapers.
Time for us Derry lot to do the same. Where are our iPad magazines? Where are our smart-phone news apps? As always, we have the talent, we just need new entrepreneurs coming forward to take these opportunities on.
Mark Nagurski is Derry’s Digital Champion based at the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce. You can contact him via email to firstname.lastname@example.org