The Future of News

by Laura Snyder

Laura SnyderThe future of news is wide open.  As columnists, we have a chance to shape how people receive their news by the power of our collective voice.  If you have an opinion about how the news industry should work in the future, write a column about it.
Imagine the day when no trees are cut down to make a newspaper.  A day when your fingers don’t turn black while reading about a local burglary, a political scandal or your best friend’s engagement announcement.
What if… a newspaper had an unlimited amount of space and no column would be eliminated for lack of space?  What if your column did not have to be edited to fit a space and could run in its entirety because it was perfect just the way it is?

Imagine a market where good columnists were in high demand and editors could afford to pay us what we are really worth.

What if your readers could read your column on a mobile device like a Kindle or a netbook while waiting for the bus (in a stiff wind), on an airplane (or in one), or in their pajamas without ever having to walk to the end of the driveway to pick up a soggy paper?

The print newspaper will be extinct soon.  That is certain and, even, necessary.  We should not see this as detrimental or unwelcome.  We should use the opportunity to call some of the shots on what happens next.  That part of the equation is by no means certain yet.

My suggestions here might be idealistic to a certain extent, but I think that for the most part the future of news can be very simple and should benefit everyone, including publishers, editors, columnists, advertisers and readers.

The proverbial writing is on the wall and newspaper owners will need to see it, acknowledge the truth of it and respond to it accurately.  The number one and most immediate way they need to respond is by not giving the content of their newspapers away for free on their website.  At the very least, a reader should have to subscribe to the print edition before he can get a free subscription to the website.  Better yet, a subscription to the print edition should not be available any longer.  The reader would need to subscribe to the website to get a “free” newspaper thrown in their driveway.  Then when the print edition is “no longer available” there won’t be such a cataclysmic upset.

The editors should offer more content on the website than they can fit in the print edition to make the website valuable to their readers.  The content can be stories that don’t fit in the print edition, lists of restaurants and menus, more letters to the editor, etc.  These “extras” should be promoted in the print edition with provocative taglines and tips like, “See more about this story on our website!”

To the advertisers, the same concept can be applied.  Sell space on the website with an offer of a “free” ad in the print edition.  It’s simply the wording that is changing, but this will acclimate the local advertisers to the changeover.

Every website page needs a hit counter that is visible to all readers and advertisers so that even the “old school” advertisers can see the number of readers that will see their ad.  Every columnist should be assigned their own page on the website.  This will eventually inspire almost a sponsorship of columnists by local advertisers.  Some columnists balk at this, because it feels too much like pimping your column. 

Think about it, though.  In essence, advertisers only place ads in newspapers that are being read.  If there is a columnist that is read more than another, the publisher can charge more for space on that page.  So if you write a great column, your editor, advertisers and readers are going to know it by the number of hits your page gets.  How is that a bad thing? … unless you’re a lousy columnist.  If you are, you probably shouldn’t be taking up so much space in the print edition and make room for a column that people want to read.

Plus, if you’ve got yourself some sponsors, what editor in their right mind would terminate your column?  Just sayin’…

All I’m suggesting here is just one way where everyone can win.  There are many ideas out there, but right now, in this moment of change and uncertainty, you have the chance to change things in the columnists’ favor by voicing your thoughts to the other players.  If you’ve got an idea that you think will work, you’ve already got an audience who will listen.

Don’t be the guy that sits in the back and heckles the speaker.  Be the guy who speaks.

Laura Snyder is a nationally syndicated columnist, author & speaker.  You can reach Laura at lsnyder@lauraonlife.com Or visit her website www.lauraonlife.com for more info.  

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