A third year BA Honours Journalism student studying at Middlesex University and based at the Journalism Centre Harlow College has emailed me the following questions. As always, I make the responses public.
1. What effect do you think the increase in Internet news sites will have on newspapers?
It’s already had an effect – increased competition, increased immediacy and reduced costs. But it’s not just news sites – the internet enables people and organisations to communicate with each other without needing news media to do it for them. That’s a real challenge.
2. How do you see the Internet evolving, in terms of providing people with news?
Databases will become increasingly important – the ability to personalise the information we drill down to. Geo positioning will perform a similar function. Social networks will also perform an increasingly important role in filtering news for us. The distinction between conversation and publishing will become increasingly vague.
3. Does the future of news lie in the Internet?
What do you mean by ‘the future of the news’? If you mean will news increasingly be consumed and transmitted on the internet, well, yes.
He replied: What I mean by ‘Does the future of news lie in the Internet?’ is will the Internet put an end to the traditional press? As through my research I have found a number of media analysts who say that this is what will eventually happen and by looking at the newspapers readership figures it is clear to see that they are declining – even if it is slowly.
I’m not someone who believes the press will be ‘killed off’ by the web. As a technology paper has plenty of advantages (although I won’t repeat the bullshit about reading it in the bath). Culturally people have a lot of associations with paper. It works well as a document, a snapshot; it has high resolution and serendipity. It wasn’t killed off by other media – but it did have to adapt, and it will again. So whatever the “traditional press” is, yes, that will “end” insofar as it will change.
My guess is most papers will either go free, or become high quality glossy weeklies. But I do believe paid for daily national and regional newspapers will struggle and disappear or go web-only (as is already happening) both because the economics no longer support the profit margins investors bought into, and because readers are less and less willing to pay for that serendipity and breadth and read it every day.
We should also remember that the web has not seen a proliferation of news discussion and analysis so much as its increased visibility. This stuff has always taken place away from printed paper – but now we can see it on screen, and it is easier for us to find people to talk about shared interests.
4. What can the Internet offer someone that a newspapers can not?
Personalisation, conversation, immediacy, multimedia, social connection, utility, infinite space and time, connectivity, permanence… how long have you got? Not that print doesn’t have advantages too.
5. Will it have an effect on Television news and if so how?
Again, it already has. Broadcasters now have to think about how their relationship with the viewer spills out online, so they are asking for contributions of content (video, images, emails, texts etc), providing extra information online, and distributing their video using channels such as YouTube, Facebook, etc. I would expect that to continue, with more attention paid to building and engaging with online communities around news brands and the issues, and more thought about how TV news can offer additional services with web technologies.