Released this year but made in 2009 and 10, Page One documents the questionable future of the ‘gray lady’ in the face of falling circulation and the increase of internet based media. While the main person of focus is David Carr, a senior reporter, many editors and other staff contribute and comment on the challenges that they face.
In many ways, newspapers in the current business environment are doomed as advertisers take their millions and move into websites. More and more newspapers have folded, gone bankrupt or faded away. The business model is no longer sustainable for newspapers. No longer are readers willing to pay to read news that can be found for free elsewhere online. The other main reason is why read something in print first thing in the morning, when you could go online and get all the information the evening before. How can a print media compete with the instantness of the internet?
The biggest question, being asked by many media companies, is how to continue to be a news organization, pay a talented staff and yet keep the readership and somehow keep the bank account in the black. While all newspapers are moving online with websites, several are attempting to implement a paywall, a way to have readers pay to be able to read the news on the website. This is, again, running into the wall that is already battering the newspaper; why pay for something that you can find online for free.
Part of the issue is generational, after all, with the majority of the internet still too young to buy a drink in a bar, the new generation of news readers have grown up using a search engine to discover the weather, sports results, news and gossip. While not totally to blame, they have also been on the forefront of music and movie downloads. Paying for something online is not a habit that many younger newspaper readers have gotten into yet.
Not only are these great newspapers are risk but so are the talent they employ. While anyone can write a news story, it takes a good writer to make it enjoyable to read and a great journalist to convinvce the reader to read something they have no interest in. If the newspapers disappear, will these journalists follow? In a world where Twitter and text messages are abbriviating words, can we really risk losing the true wordsmiths who can make the letters and words sit and up and dance the way a chef can mingle the ingredients into a great meal?
Whoever comes up with the business model that both allows free access to information and also keeps the newspaper companies making money will be hailed as an industry saver. At time of writing though, no one has found the magic bullet. As it stands right now, if a newspaper website is free to access, the only money that the newspaper can generate is from advertising that is seen on each page. If it isn’t free, then a dwinderling number of readers are paying for the privalige of reading news that can be found for free elsewhere.
Page One is incredibly interesting as it shows how an iconic company that has been at the forefront of the industry for so many years is struggling to find it’s place in a world that changed in the blink of an eye. While the aubituary for the New York Times is yet to be published, many believe that it has already been written and is just waiting for the final days before it gets sent to the press.