Friday, 28 January 2011

The future of newspapers

There is an intriguing development in the media industry…

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is launching an  iPad only newspaper called Daily. It was initially supposed to be launched in January in the presence of Steve Jobs of Apple, but has been postponed as Steve Jobs is on medical leave. The product will be launched later in the year presumably along with the iPad 2.   Some industry commentators see this model as a  prototype for new way of selling newspapers, which is likely to be emulated by other tablet computers in the future. Above all else, the move is going to be watched with heightened curiosity by the newspaper industry.
It is a fact that the readership of newspapers is declining sharply as readers are increasingly moving on to the internet. The phenomenon, which is widespread in all countries, has severely affected many regional newspapers in different countries particularly in the United States.  Rupert Murdoch has been advocating the building of pay walls around news sites (The Times started charging readers online last year).

Recently Eric Schimidt, CEO of Google pointed out in a recent interview with The Guardian in London that the news reading  experience will undergo huge changes in the next few years. It will offer a new experience to the readers with rich text, colour, video and the ability to go very deeply into the story. Readers will be presented with what is latest rather than reading what we already know. In other terms, news will become more personalised and will be supported by sophisticated  multi-media centric advertising products.

Google feels since the internet is based on the concept of free information, pay walls shouldn’t be enforced.  I am inclined to agree with Google’s argument, and feel that as the digital era takes its grip, the readership of newspapers will pick up. There will be a greater source of revenue through advertising with increased readership. It will therefore make sense to have both free and  subscription models available.  In fact, several studies have shown that websites that offer free news don’t want to move to a pay model as the earnings through advertising is good enough. And, as news becomes more customised, people are likely to read the sections that they are interested in, which in turn will widen the scope of targeted advertising.

The iPad newspaper is going to be the first newspaper of its kind in this category. Apple should welcome it but as a company known for its innovation it shouldn’t endorse it.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Happy Birthday Wikipedia

15 January 2011 is the 10th anniversary of  Wikipedia. To mark the occasion, there is an explosion of discussions ‘in praise of Wikipedia’ on television, radio and newspapers. The fact that Wikipedia’s birthday has generated so much interest points out two interesting things. Firstly, how this online tool that contains a plethora of information about almost everything in the universe has become an important part of our life. Secondly, the power of the internet to create anniversaries of brands that are celebrated all over the world.    Brands existed much before the internet came into being. People across the world owned products but we didn’t have anniversaries that got people talking about Rolls Royce, Virgin or Rolex…
What makes brands like Wikipedia or Google so popular that the world takes notices whenever something is said about them? The answer is simple: these are the tools that have dramatically changed the way we consume knowledge and information.Wikipedia, for example, offers more than 17m articles in 270  languages without a charge. Every day thousands of people edit entries or add new ones. For someone looking for information Wikipedia provides quick summary or in-depth information about a topic.
There have however been serious concerns about the accuracy of information that is posted on Wikipedia.  Some academics frown, when Wikipedia is even mentioned. In 2009. Britain’s exam watchdog, Ofqual, warned that Wikipedia was not “authoritative or accurate” and entries “may be completely untrue”.  However, in my opinion, Wikipedia compares well with the accuracy of books, newspapers and magazines and it provides an excellent starting point for research. Its ability to provide a quick overview of a subject, with links to abundant references, is of immense value. I agree with those that say the references must not be taken on face value, and if it is being used for a wider  research, it needs to be cross checked.
The fact that Wikipedia has become an indispensible part of the knowledge economy has made institutions take it more seriously. Most researchers ensure that the pages are correctly updated. Most brands and companies like to have Wikipedia pages. After all everyone wants to be heard and probably the greatest success of Wikipedia is that also gives voice and shape to something. It is true that  references on topics in Wikipedia can be conveniently manipulated to raise doubts, but like any  product, it should be left to the discretion of the consumer to use the information or not.
 Wikipedia is a narrative of the past and the present. It plays an important role is democratisation of information and its dissemination. Clearly, it also holds a message for brands: one reason why we talk about anniversaries of Wikipedia, Twitter, Face book and  Google, is because these brands reach out to people and make themselves a part of their life. Above all, these tools provide a free and centralised view about the world.