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What is Quality Journalism and How Can It Be Saved.

What is Quality Journalism and How Can It Be Saved.

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Published by Eric Prenen

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Published by: Eric Prenen on Dec 09, 2010
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11/15/2012

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New technology not only adds to the ongoing fragmentation of audiences but
it leads to the fragmentation of newspapers – unbundling the bundle that used
to be the newspaper. By ‘bundle’ I mean that the newspaper holds a collection
of different kinds of content: from foreign news to sports and arts, from lifestyle
and fashion to the weather. The editors could take revenue from display ads
placed by car salesmen and real estate agents and use it to cover different
aspects of civic life. The old business model made the bundle happen, but the
Internet destroyed the logic of the bundle. Why should one flick through all
these sections to get to the comics when one can just go directly to the comics?

If you started doing something 70 years ago because it made

sense at the time, might not make sense today, or it can be better

done by some other organization. Newspapers are not yet at

the point where they think that maybe we need to change the

product. You’ve got to decide whether or not we need to do all

those functions. I’m constantly amazed of the amount of time

and effort that goes into lifestyle and listings. (Picard)

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WHAT IS QUALITY JOURNALISM AND HOW IT CAN BE SAVED

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State of the News Media 2010, an annual report on American journalism,
recognizes the unbundling of news as one of the major trends of online
journalism. On the Internet, consumers are not coming to newspapers for their
broad coverage of various issues.

Online, it is becoming increasingly clear, consumers are not

seeking out news organizations for their full news agenda. They

are hunting the news by topic and by event and grazing across

multiple outlets. This is changing both the finances and the culture

of newsrooms. When revenue is more closely tied to each story,

what is the rationale for covering civic news that is consequential

but has only limited interest? The data also are beginning to

show a shift away from interest in local news toward more

national and international topics as people have more access

to such information, which may have other effects on local

dynamics. (State of News Media 2010, Major Trends)

George Brock, of City University, says that news organisations need to stop
thinking in a print habit. The most important thing now is to find a way of
sustaining journalism in a different context. He thinks that odds are against a
pay-wall for all content, but to have some content free and some behind a pay-
wall might work for some papers.

I think there will be more people willing to pay than we generally

think. I think experiments will show that people are prepared

to pay for some things, just not for the slightly devalued particular

sort of packages they’ve come to associate with newspapers.

That was a very successful economic formula for a very long

time but that particular formula doesn’t work anymore, partly

because the digital technology disaggregates the bundle, splits

up the content. There is information on the web for which people

are prepared to buy, but it’s not the bundle.

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ANALYSIS OF THE INTERVIEWS

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Perhaps surprisingly, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt does see a future for the
bundle:

As for the very idea of paid subscriptions: How can they have

a future in the Google-driven world of atomized spot information?

“It is probable that unbundling has a limit,” Eric Schmidt said.

Something basic in human nature craves surprise and new

sources of stimulation. Few people are “so monomaniacal,” as

he put it, that they will be interested only in a strict, predefined

list of subjects. Therefore people will still want to buy subscriptions

to sources of information and entertainment – ”bundles,” the

head of the world’s most powerful unbundler said – and advertisers

will still want to reach them. (James Fallows: How to Save the

News, Atlantic Monthly, June 2010)

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