Sunday, 29 January 2012

Discussing the future of print media

I'll be discussing the future of print media soon with some first year journalism students at Solent University. I came across these videos from US editors/publishers, which are worth a look if you haven't seen them before.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Lessons for publishers from the Kodak story

It's easy to draw some analogies for publishers from Kodak's recent story.

Days before the company filed for bankruptcy protection, the Economist did a great job of analysing why while Kodak is at deaths door, Fujifilm is thriving. Here's how they differ:
Both firms saw their traditional business rendered obsolete. But whereas Kodak has so far failed to adapt adequately, Fujifilm has transformed itself into a solidly profitable business, with a market capitalisation, even after a rough year, of some $12.6 billion to Kodak’s $220m. 
Here's a few of the points the Economist highlights:

  • Kodak had become 'a complacent monopolist'
  • It was slow to diversify, Fujifilm wasn't
  • Its culture was one of perfectionism instead of 'make it, launch it, fix it'
  • There were management and leadership failings 

Taking up a similar theme, Kim Gittleson's BBC article asks Can a company live forever?. It says that over the last century the average lifespan for a leading US company listed on the Standard & Poor 500 index has decreased by more than 50 years:
It's fallen from 67 years in the 1920s to just 15 years today, according to Professor Richard Foster from Yale University.
Today's rate of change "is at a faster pace than ever", he says. Professor Foster estimates that by 2020, more than three-quarters of the S&P 500 will be companies that we have not heard of yet.
No company is entitled to a market just because it's been around for a long time.  It has to innovate, find new markets, change its culture and re-invent itself.  For publishers who haven't already learnt this lesson it may be too late.

When journalists can't do their sums: New percentage calculator tool

Powered by the Percentage Calculator.

Many thanks to Mateus Mucha for letting me know about the latest version of this handy percentage calculator, which Mateus created.

I mentioned an earlier version last year when I wrote about When journalism doesn't add up: reporters, subs and numeracy in what proved to be one of this blog's most popular posts.

Anything that helps those of us who struggle with numbers has to be a good thing.

The changing role of the journalist

Plenty of people have been discussing how to define a journalist and thinking about whether it's really the case that everyone is a journalist these days.

Martin Cloake takes former Independent editor Simon Kelner to task for saying “Anyone with a phone is now a journalist” in a speech at a Hacks and Hackers event. Kelner corrected this when questioned, as Cloake points out:
Kelner immediately qualified his comment, saying that what he really meant was that anyone with phone “could be” a journalist. He should be more careful when defining the debate, but he’s not the only person to sloppily put forward a view that is, in my opinion, extremely damaging.
But, says Cloake, there's more to journalism than simply publishing:
The great change that we are all dealing with is that anyone with access to technology can publish. But knowing why it is important to protect sources, to balance debate where necessary, to check facts and establish authority… these are just some of the things which distinguish journalism from communication.
This is a fair point. Journalists are professional filterers of information, fact checkers and askers of awkward questions. Some 'amateurs' do the same - perhaps occasionally better than the professionals - while some just record events.

The precise role of a journalist has always been a varied one. Paul Bradshaw raises the problem of defining a journalist in a collaborative age in response to a Press Gazette post. What happens, he asks, when more journalism is being done collaboratively:
If, for example, one person researches the regulations relating to an issue, another FOIs key documents; a third speaks to a victim; a fourth speaks to an expert; a fifth to the person responsible; and a sixth writes it all up into a coherent narrative – which one is the journalist?
Equally, any non-media folk watching or reading about the Leveson Inquiry might find it interesting to note that a journalist can be both someone who decides whether to run pictures and stories about celebrities and their weight and someone who takes politicians to task for their actions.

Journalism has always included a wide range of roles and activities. Admittedly there is a bit of churnalism but there's also space for some thoughtful analysis.

We know that the people we used to call the audience have a vital role to play in the process and if we fail to involve them and interact with them, we'll lose them. All we know for certain is that the range of roles and activities in journalism is just getting broader.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Headline writing: when is a 'slump' just a fall?

The headline on this Guardian news story caught my eye:
Number of UK-born university applicants slumps by 8% 
But is an 8% drop really a slump? 'Slump' suggests a major fall in applications to me. The Guardian standfirst says:
In the year fees of up to £9,000 kick in, 283,680 people apply for university from within UK, compared with 306,908 last year
If my sums are correct that's a fall of 23,228 applicants.  Sounds like a lot. But how many places are there to apply for? Also, as one of the commenters on the story notes, last year was a boom year for applications as prospective students rushed to beat the fee increase.  Maybe we need more context.                                                                                                                                                                        
 So is the story about a slump or just a fall?