I liked the piece by columnist Simon Jenkins, former editor of The Times, on the future of the newspaper industry. Jenkins has wide-ranging interests, but he’s particularly strong on newspapers. I remember being impressed by one of his earlier publications, Newspapers: The Power and the Money, when I started as a journalist.
Among the salient points in the column:
- Rupert Murdoch’s determined initiative to stall internet joy-riders by erecting subscription barriers around all his newspaper and TV station online content will be as significant as his stand against the print unions at Wapping in 1985. And for the same reason. Murdoch is the only one who can provide the media industry leadership to carry the day. His rivals, out of fear of the consequences or loathing for Murdoch, will equivocate. But, as at Wapping, they will be quick enough to mimick his action once early signs of success become evident.
- Paywalls are not a solution. They are a palliative which will slow the inevitable extinction of print. Newspapers, as we know them, are facing their “Dunkirk”; the best that can be hoped for is enough time to draw up the boats.
- Newspapers must reinvent themselves as “affinity” clubs. Look how the seemingly moribund pop industry has cast off the shackles of the record industry and transformed itself into a “mass movement for live audiences”.
- Newspapers have great brands which can act as umbrellas for all sorts of other commercial activities of interest to their readers, such as courses, seminars, conferences, music events. News is a core, but by no means definitive, attribute of what these brands stand for. Once this truth has been thoroughly absorbed by media owners they will find it much easier to persuade like-minded people to pay for the privilege of joining a club.
The Battle of France is over, but the Battle of Britain is about to begin, I seem to remember someone saying of Dunkirk.