By Steve Outing
2010 was such an interesting, eventful year in the media business. But I expect that 2011 is going to bring even more change. Indeed, I hope for more change. Here are some of my wishes for the news and media worlds for the year ahead:
I wish… for Murdoch to fail, quickly
I wish… for NYTimes.com’s “metered” paywall to flounder
I wish… news publishers will wake up to the membership model, and learn to SELL
I remain bullish on the “premium membership” model for news websites. I.e., keep non-niche news free online (since it’s been free for many years already, and good luck changing consumer attitudes) and create a program (or tier of programs) with extra benefits for the paying customer. I’m not going to go deep on what benefits in this short article, but the idea is to have something special to SELL to the large audience that’s already visiting a news website that’s free. If the news industry put some serious brainpower and resources into figuring out what lots of people would pay for instead of what they should, and got really serious about marketing and selling, that makes so much more sense than the alternative message that we see from too many news publishers: “Pay because we deserve to get your money for what we do.” This will require that news publishers actually work their butts off to sell, rather than sit back and expect people to fork over money “just because” everyone should support journalism. … No they don’t, as long as comparable free alternatives are a click or two away. (If a news publisher’s content has no credible free online competition, fine: go for your paywall.)
I wish… that Wikileaks and mainstream news providers learn to get along
My wish is for corporate-owned media institutions’ leaders is to grow a spine and support Wikileaks, because a bad outcome for Assange and his organization (what Jay Rosen aptly describes as the “first stateless news organization”) will mean bad times ahead for the rest of the press and new powers by government officials to censor embarrassing and bad stuff that they don’t want revealed.
And Wikileaks is but the first of the new genre of whistle-blower enablers. Even if Wikileaks were to go away (which is doubtful), its successors will multiply. Instead of viewing this as a negative development, I wish that more journalists and especially news executives would see the whistle-blower sites as partners and an increasingly useful tool in helping them do their jobs. Revealing state secrets can be done in an irresponsible manner which does real harm. But Wikileaks and its ilk working in concert with news organizations can reveal institutional wrongdoing in a way that reveals misdeeds and protects secrets that legitimately need to be kept from the public.
I wish… that many newspaper executives will retire
This is not an age issue, for there are some older news executives with attitudes open to radical transformation of their businesses. Young or old, newspaper CEOs who still spend the majority of their time on the print product should go. Boards of directors: Why aren’t you forcing these people out?
I wish… that the cost of developing mobile apps will fall greatly
But there’s a major problem looming. Developing sophisticated apps will, in time, become easy and inexpensive enough that anyone will be able to create a professional-looking mobile app to compete with apps from big-name media brands. Just as blogging platforms (Blogger, Typepad, etc.) and no-cost open-source content management systems (e.g., WordPress, Drupal, etc.) allowed anyone to become a publisher and, with enough talent, to produce web publications that rival the quality of traditional media companies, the coming wave of simple mobile-app production tools (including tools to create HTML5 mobile websites with the same capabilities as stand-alone apps) will repeat history for publishing to smartphones and tablets. The sooner this happens, the sooner that the news industry will be forced to figure out a viable business model to support production of serious journalism by well-staffed newsrooms.
I wish… that non-profit investigative news organizations have a GREAT year
What are your media wishes for 2011?