The real problem here runs deeper than how to present a viable newspaper format online. The question should be "is there a better way to present news?".
The newspaper model was built in the days of newsprint when the limitation to the amount of copy and advertising available, plus the barriers to competition, naturally set up scarcity and a very effective way to sell the news (and advertising).
Online what made a 'newspaper' effective does not exist. Also thanks to Google internet users have discovered that they can find more about the things that interest them by visiting other specialist subject sites. No physical limits on newsprint and minimal barriers to competition now mean that the newspaper model is only there to give people a quick view of what is happening in areas that interest them - who wants to pay for a table of contents every day when most of what it contains is not of interest? What people want is deeper information about the news that interests them. What is happening now is the growth of sites that cover one subject area, where there is community of interested expert and amateurs and good quality content available. Hopping across 20-30 sites is not a problem now it if allows you to find quality content on the subjects that interest you. An example? People come to techdirt.com for useful insights to copyright law and other associated matters!!
Quality curation is certainly a human driven function. However, there is a lot than can be done by computer processing to assist curators cope with the volume of content that they need to handle.
Also giving site users really effective access to a large amount of quality curated content gives the site user the ability to dig deeper and check out the quality of the curation being offered. The Web is beginning to understand customer service - the site user is the customer.
Aggregation is the tool that curators use to bring together quality relevant content. I agree that how that aggregation is done and how primary source content is displayed has an impact how news gatherers can recoup their costs. This is still a problem that needs understanding. The traditional news agencies (AP, Reuters, PA, AFP, etc) were set up because it was not longer possible for every newspaper to have journalists everywhere. That model no longer fits the online world in the same way that the newspaper itself is defunct on the Web. There are new models to be tried out and this is what is happening now.
Journalism will not die but it has to accept that times are changing and it has to adapt. The malor problem here is getting the traditional sources (large publishers and agencies) to adopt models that actually work. One thing is certain - the quality of content produced will have a part to play in finding the solution!
I have always had a great admiration for real journalism - always for me meaning 40 years of reading newspapers. To me a good journalist is someone who has great sources and contacts and an analytical mind that can pull together strands of thought to create an informed opinion on a particular subject. I carefully use the words 'pull together' but it could just as easily be replaced by the tainted word 'aggregate'. I am sorry if it offends but it is a fact good journalism necessitates the aggregation of ideas, opinion and facts.
However, that is not the real problem. The real problem for journalists is that they continue to associate their work with a traditional business model that has no place online.
A newpaper is a concept that evolved to make the best of a certain set of circumstances. The finite limitation imposed on the amount space available for articles and advertising in turn limits the range of subjects that can be covered and the depth of subject coverage offered. That also dictates the style used to deliver the limited content.
Online the concept of a newspaper is irrelevant because these limitations do not exist. Add to this that Google has taught Web users that it is possible to find lots of sources of information on any subject and you get increasingly sophisticated Web users looking for a format that matches their needs.
Now add the growth of Blogging. A lot of blogs are of little interest; being uninfomed opinion with little substance. However, the ability to blog has attracted many real subject experts to start sharing their views with the world. These are, in some cases, the sources that journalists would have cultivated in the past and they are certainly people that should be listened to today.
So, what is the format that should have replaced the 'newpaper'? A single subject web site that aggregates and curates the best sources, opinions and information and makes this available in a user-centric format so that web users can visit a range of speicalist sites and pick up depth coverage on the subjects that interest them.
Oh, just one thing more. The radical change in the ;last decade from disruptive marketing techniques to engaging content marketing methods means that there are people with money out there looking for sites that have focused quality content and a community of regular users that they can engage with. A business model that has a viable monetisation method built into it?
Maybe the future for journalism is working for Brands that become publishers, not newspapers that are dying?
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