A response to Paul Bradshaw

In my first blog post, I responded to a blog by Paul Bradshaw entitled ‘How the web changed the economics of news‘ (2009). It seems some debate has been sparked as the man himself took the time to comment on my post.

I stand corrected on my first point, that if the cost of newsgathering, production and distribution is almost nil, then why is the newspaper industry still declining? I forgot to take into account the cost of printing, which is obviously a major expenditure for the newspaper industry… Of course, the problem is that if online journalism is widely free to consume and the cost to make it is “almost nil”, then how does it compare to print journalism? It’s not that credible journalism is expensive, but with online costs being less, it leaves room for corner-cutting. Which brings me onto my next point on churnalism.

I stand by my argument that a lot of journalism created online is, in fact, ‘churnalism’. Here, Bradshaw comments:

“You also say that people aren’t prepared to pay for churnalism – but large chunks of local newspapers have been characterised by churnalism for quite some time. There’s an implication that online = churnalism and print is not. You need some research to back that up.”

Most of the news that is on the internet has originated from newspapers. Newspapers are huge organisations which have the power to send journalists across the world and into the armchairs of politicians to gather news. If you are reading a story online about the latest on the presidential campaign or what is currently happening in Syria, chances are there’s a journalist or two actually there, reporting on the story for a newspaper, as well as broadcast journalism, etc. I actually have personal experience from an internship I did for an online magazine, in which I was told to find stories online and then re-write and upload them to their website.

During this internship, I was also told to copy and paste press releases straight from the email and upload them to the magazine’s website. Bradshaw says: “There’s an implication that online = churnalism and print is not.” Well, yes, actually. All of print may not be original and quality journalism, but if you copy and paste a line from a press release and search Google, you will find the same ‘story’ appearing over and over again on ‘news’ websites for the first couple of pages. Of course, this is understandable as online journalism decays faster than print and needs constant facelifts. This is where I want to venture further into online and print news budgets and the economics of it all, but lack this specific knowledge.

I suppose it comes down to the frustration of whether there is a viable model – that isn’t the paywall or the £2-a-month levy on broadband, as suggested by The Guardian’s David Leigh – that can make online journalism pay. As I continue with this module and blog, I hope to investigate this further, gain the appropriate knowledge, and draw some of my own conclusions.

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