Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Brilliant Insight!

We recently had a brilliant training course from Paul Bramwell of Brilliant Media (how apt) who gave us a comprehensive overview of how the media and advertising spend is changing, from Facebook to Twitter and beyond.

Fascinating, but it did make me feel like a dinosaur. For a man who still likes to feel the crisp pink pages of the FT each morning (you can’t beat a bit of Martin Wolfe) it was a glimpse into an uncomfortable future.

I did however take the opportunity to ask Paul a question that has worried me for a while. Those of us who became obsessed by the recent Presidential election, eagerly awaiting news of half point swings in Rasmussen tracking polls in Pennsylvania (I know, I’m boring you don’t need to tell me), got most of our information from either the Washington Post or New York Times websites.

Two more contrasting business models it was hard to find. The Washington Post provides totally free content, the New York Times, on the other hand, until recently utilised a controversial subscription-only model for any information beyond the home page. The ‘Paper of Record’ has now backed down, but the debate over charging for online news continues to rage, not least because so many newspapers in the States, notably the Chicago Tribune, have filed for bankruptcy protection and are struggling to find new revenue streams. In fact, there has been a call only this week for newspaper owners across the US to band together and insist on a subscription-only service on the basis that they can’t keep giving news away “for free”.

So, is subscription-only the future? “Absolutely not” says Paul. “Even Rupert Murdoch says that you cannot charge for web content and if anybody knows how to extract cash from something it’s him.”

So there it is the definitive answer, subscription-only content is not an option to save the newspaper industry, says Paul (and Rupert).


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