From paper to digital (Jan 30th: Bryan Glick, Computer Weekly)

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Last Thursday (30th of January) I had the pleasure to attend a lunch seminar talk at the University of Southampton by Bryan Glick, editor in chief of Computer Weekly. During this hour session he shared some valuable insights in the world of journalism and digital magazines to us: a crowd filled with Webscience students, Digichamps, KISM students and many more. In this blog post I light out 5 of his insights and my corresponding views. If you have any additions or comments, please contact me: I’d love to spar!

#1 Paper is not dead.

Going digital means that you “bring together all your channels for content in a coherent way that engages your audience”. Where first there was only paper, now there is a wide range of media available. Lots of people are saying that paper is dead, but that’s not true. It’s just not as dominant a medium as before. Just like other media types, it has been remediated in others. Analog goes digital, the iPod goes iPhone, and paper journals goes digital. The old form still exists (think vinyl), but won’t be the primary medium. That’s the world nowadays: deal with it.

#2 You’re more likely to die in a plane crash than to click on a web ad.

When going from paper to an online magazine, one has to rethink its entire business model. Since readers are very unlikely to click on web advertisements, one should rethink: are advertisements the only way to make money next to subscriptions? The answer, according to Computer Weekly, is no. They have moved from being only a computer magazine to being a computer magazine with a business analytics part. Data is sold to IT companies in order to create sustainable revenue. So: “Go digital, don’t just digitize”. And, most of all, “Traffic + members = money”.

#3 From one-way communication to interaction.

In the good ‘ol days, journalism was a one-way communication job. One would write an article, subscribers would read it and that was that. You might have one cheeky reader sending in a letter to the magazine with some comments, but this was more exception than rule. Now this has, obviously, completely changed. Journalists are now expected to interact with their readers. For them to do this, they need more from their employer: autonomy, responsibility, freedom and trust.

#4 From Information gatekeeper to explainer.

News has become a commodity. Everyone has access to ‘all’ information since the birth of the Internet. This means that the job for the journalist has fundamentally changed. Where he/she first was a gatekeeper of information, deciding which news their readers would read, he/she now transitioned into an explainer, a sharer, advisor and community manager. The fundamentals haven’t changed, but this does mean that journalists need to understand their business and target audience even better than before. They now have the opportunity to go more in-depth and to free themselves from the tyranny of quantity. “You’re not selling news, you’re selling a paper”.

#5 You’ll never make as much money as before.

With the dawn of the Internet, the barriers of entry into journalism have been incredibly reduced. One can start a blog at any time they wish and have a wide range of resources available from every corner of the web. This means that (online) magazines will never make as much money as before. The demand for content and the total pot of money is still growing, but the share one gets is much smaller. The power has shifted from the publisher to the consumer. It’s their choice how, when and what they want to read, and how they are going to search for it. This also gives a new challenge for journalism in finding the balance between good content and SEO.

So, going from paper to digital does not only simply mean reading a journal from a computer instead of from a paper page. It goes along with a fundamental shift in power, money, business strategy and job characteristics. I want to thank Bryan Glick for making this clear again in his very informative and engaging talk. Obviously, I’ve bookmarked Computer Weekly now 🙂

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