Will newspapers survive what is happening online?
This has been the single biggest question asked of us from clients and friends alike since major recent changes to the media and journalism landscape including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (Cut and Divide Approach). To us the writing has been on the wall since Google changed to their Panda algorithm in 2011 and their more recent Penguin Search Algorithm update confirms this. These changes combined with the Google + YouTube vision strategy means Newspapers are not the only traditional media in the firing line. 20-20 Hindsight is easy, so writing about the effects of Panda and Penguin now associated with Newspapers is not a stretch. So lets run with our prediction for Newspapers, will they survive? – Our answer for this is a resounding NO; how is this clear to us? here are our top 6 broad brush strokes;
1. Bloggers aka Social Journalists. The Organic Search algorithms on Google have been rewarding Social Journalism (Bloggers) for sometime. The Panda update couldn’t have been a clearer example of this, when it turned on home-bloggers started getting Page 1 search engine results over major international newspapers. This has settled down since, with refinements to the Google Algorithms like Penguin, but still favours consistent on-topic content producers. To put it another way take “Baking Cookies” for example; Long term do you reward the journalists who write an article on this once a season, or the passionate home bloggers who write something about cookies everyday?
2. Keywords is a SEO competition. Think about the person searching for “Cookie Recipes” and “Cookie Baking How Tos”… with an infinite number of SEO keywords to compete for, the consistent topic writer will eventually win this strategy. The power of WordPress and other open source content tools have placed this power in everyone’s reach.
3. LIVE interactive News vs. Reported News. What about more mainstream news topics? Well, taking the Cookie Topic example one step further, do you want to hear from a reporter writing about an a world event, lets say a war … or hear and talk to the people in the war ? Twitter, Facebook, Bloggers and more, the experience is becoming more LIVE and interactive. Journalists, even at the front-line are still interpreting an event, not living it. Also, do you prefer to read a long-winded article, or has technology changed the way you absorb and respond to a topic (Mobile, SMS, Tweets, Friends Facebook Posts, Emails going Viral). If it doesn’t already, news will come to you, you won’t watch the news.
4. Google’s Content Triangle. Google have 3 choices about who wins Search Results. (i). Social Journalists or Bloggers, (ii) Newspapers, (iii) SEM (Search Engine Marketing). The commercial SEM results (iii) can easily be paid for by any company – so winning those is whoever has more spend (simple) however Google needs to maintain a balance with organic SEO (i) and (ii). As noted in point 1 above, we think Social Journalists will win this space. Also Google have agreements with commercial media companies under the “News” search tab. So “News” is already a separate domain, which sometimes get 1st page priority, but not always. Also a startup can apply for a “News” accreditation with Google without too many barriers; they are always looking for new topical content creators (like a Cookie Community!) .
5. Video is Next. We are still in the very early stages of change. But adding paid subscriptions to content on a tablet is one thing and will provide a limited lifespan for newspapers. However think about faster interactive content – with Internet speeds increasing worldwide (like the NBN in Australia), broadcasting live via #hashtags we think is the next. And YouTube (owned by Google) is fast moving to develop their platform as a broadcast / channel medium. So you will be able as an example; to watch worldwide channels on YouTube connected to your favourite topic or content creator directly, or possibly mashed together via smart channel algorithms.
6. Advertising $. Media follows the advertising revenue. Advertising revenue follows qualified traffic. As this shifts more and more to digital, so will the content. This is all a grab for community and trust. The big thing about generating trust online, is as you sell more advertising (or use an exit strategy like buy-out), the successful qualified traffic us open to new organic and passionate competition. Note: This isn’t the biggest factor, as newspapers are also rolling out digital versions, however when considered as part of the above points, the trust gap for big brands can be competed with. This has not happened in the history of reporting, till now.
The required technology is here or rolling out soon (Consider the computer / robot algorithms aggregating content and writing sports articles as well or better than humans – haven’t heard of this, google robot or computer sports journalism). Adoption is the only change that needs to happen; IPTV, Broadcast Tablets, Social Media, refinements to Search and Video Searching are all growing, so we are saying by 2015 maybe a year or 2 later, Newspapers go the way of Libraries, Bookstores, Encyclopaedias and other dinosaurs of the printed press. Replaced by platform independent multimedia keyword or #hastag journalism. If you think about it, we are already self organising to this model.
So, do you agree? If so, what is your predicted extinction date for Newspapers??