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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Incipient newspaper trends I: customized news

Young people "don't want to rely on a God-like figure from above to tell them what's important...Instead, they want their news on demand, when it works for them. They want control over the media, instead of being controlled by it." These words of wisdom from the infamous media baron, Rupert Murdoch, illustrate an industry trend that panders to what some dub the "'Me' Generation." Instead of accepting editors' carefully thought-out decisions about what to publish on any given day, readers are increasingly prone to read subjects that reflect their own interests from any given source.

Finding the article on that story you've been following for a few days that has been reduced to a couple of paragraphs on A-19 in your daily paper is no longer necessary. Facilitated by RSS feeds, news aggregators and search engines, you can now find thousands of sources still gung-ho on your topic of interest with a few clicks of the mouse. And you'll be able to discuss it online as well, which may be part of Murdoch's strategy in purchasing MySpace, an Internet networking portal popular with youth that connects people with like interests (see previous posting).

William Powers at the National Journal relates the customization trend to the coffee shop Starbucks. Although newspapers and a cup of joe may not have too much in common, Powers wonders why newspapers don't serve news the way Starbucks serves coffee: the way that each individual customer wants it. Noting that this is possible via the Internet, Powers echos the general perception that over their ten year existence, newspaper Websites have not taken full advantage of the opportunities the medium provides.

Columbia University professor Eli Noam takes this a step further in the Financial Times (previous posting). After establishing that newspapers must "actively plan for a paperless future," he writes that the move to "virtual" will "lead to two archetypes of news organizations; 'specialist content providers' and... 'semi-virtual integrators' who bundle, pick and choose their content and service elements from these specialists." He continues, "It is not clear what the competitive advantage of established newspapers is in such a virtual model. They are too big for the specialist shop model, and too expensive or low-tech for the integrator model."

Uh-oh. So how, if at all possible, do newspapers diversify to remain relevant in the world of 'Me' and customized news? Our next posting in this mini-series will give a little more insight.

Cheers to Robb Montgomery at Visual Editors for tipping us on the Powers article.

Sources: BBC (Murdoch), National Journal, Financial Times

Posted by john burke on July 21, 2005 at 02:00 PM in c. Multimedia convergence, h. Young readers / New readers, i. Future of print | Permalink


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