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some weeks ago i have drafted a concept for a future-proof newspaper and how newspaper can make use of the internet as platform for interaction with readers and contributors. now this approach gets support from a surprising side: rupert murdoch, media tycoon who owns 175 newspapers and a range of TV stations, recognizes the challenge newspapers face in the digital age in a speech held in front of the american society of newspaper editors:

what is happening is, in short, a revolution in the way young people are accessing news. they don’t want to rely on the morning paper for their up-to-date information. they don’t want to rely on a god-like figure from above to tell them what’s important. instead, they want their news on demand, when it works for them. they want control over their media, instead of being controlled by it. they want to question, to probe, to offer a different angle. (..) one commentator, jeff jarvis, puts it this way: give the people control of media, they will use it. don’t give people control of media, and you will lose them. in the face of this revolution, however, we’ve been slow to react. we’ve sat by and watched while our newspapers have gradually lost circulation. (..) the trends are against us. fast search engines and targeted advertising as well as editorial, all increase the electronic attractions by a factor of 3 or 4. and at least four billion dollars a year is going into R&D to further improve this process.

more surprisingly the 74-year-old conservative doesn’t only realise the severeness of the situation, he – or his advisers – also recognises some of the opportunities digital media provide newspapers:

properly done, they are an opportunity to actually improve our journalism and expand our reach. (..) [young readers] want to be able to use the information in a larger community – to talk about, to debate, to question, and even to meet the people who think about the world in similar or different ways. our internet versions can (..) provide virtual communities for our readers to be linked to other sources of information, other opinions, other like-minded people. (..) the digital native doesn’t send a letter to the editor anymore. she goes online, and starts a blog. we need to be the destination for those bloggers. we need to encourage readers to think of the web as the place to go to engage our reporters and editors in more extended discussions about the way a particular story was reported or researched or presented. at the same time, we may want to experiment with the concept of using bloggers to supplement our daily coverage of news on the net. to carry this one step further, some digital natives do even more than blog with text – they are blogging with audio, specifically through the rise of podcasting – and to remain fully competitive, some may want to consider providing a place for that as well. (..) we may never become true digital natives, but we can and must begin to assimilate to their culture and way of thinking. it is a monumental, once-in-a-generation opportunity.

as much as i am astonished by the extent of recognition of the situation i still think the proposed actions only scratch the surface. basically murdoch drafts how newspapers should react in order to survive somewhat longer but i’m missing the point that printed newspapers will have to fundamentally rethink their role in news delivery in order to sustainably take a healthy and stable position in media landscape. i’m not sure if my concept of a future-proof newspaper satisfies these claims but it clearly goes further and is more conrete. (murdoch’s speech via telepolis.)


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