Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The death of Newspapers

Highly respected stills and video shooter Dan Chung was interviewed by 'DP Review' this week and he said he 'Does not really see a future in photojournalism as a way of making a living'

North Korea's Military parade in Slow Motion from Dan Chung on Vimeo.

And I do have to say that I agree with him on this and much else he has to say in the interview.

How did we arrive at this point?

Firstly newspapers have simply not got a handle on the state of the market and how they are going to survive, and I will return to this point later on in this post.

Secondly Photographers employed by newspapers in the UK have been all too slow to adopt new technology, namely video.

Video has been embraced by UK newspaper photographers with the same enthusiasm as one would greet a rabid leper.

A lot of extra work(true), a lack of understanding of editing and audio (understandable) and little interest or  enthusiasm for the brave new world that is here whether we like it not.

When video was first foisted upon newspapers in the early days of DSLR video, there was the possibility of them shooting it, indeed some did, with notable moments of success.

But the truth be told very few of them WANTED to take on a ton of extra work for seemingly no reward for their trouble.

In time the powers that be got the idea that picture desks and picture editors might not be the best people to run with this great opportunity.

On the whole neither picture editors or photographers put up much of a fight to hang onto this important stake in their own future.

In-fact a collective sigh of relief could be heard, that they no longer had to try to grapple with producing content that their masters simply did not and mostly still do not know what to do with.

It that moment not only was the battle for photographers jobs lost, but so was the war.

Video has been almost universally been handed over to the growing 'online' department, who commission video by non photographers which often does not have quite the look or feel as one might hope for.

And this has not just happen on one paper but many.

As one well known newspaper photographer told me 'they will always need profile pieces of people talking about their pensions etc, so I will be ok'  I thought, but did not say, 'You will be OK until they start asking these people to take photos on their  phones and send them in with the story, the quality will be ropey but accountants don't care about that, they just look at the bottom line'

So, by letting video go photographers have lost a stake in the future, their voice and sooner or later their jobs.

Harsh but true.

Another photographer I know who works for a major Sunday broadsheet newspaper was sent away on a weekend long course to be taught FCP 7, at the paper,s expense.

Subsequently he never used the software ever, not once.

Turkeys voting for Christmas anyone?

But it is not really the photographers' fault.

The vast majority of the time if a British newspaper gets a good and interesting video, they simply do not know what to do with it, or the editor has no interest at all.

So it is disregarded, and forgotten.

Even 'The Guardian' who is the rightly respected market leader in this area does not have a full handle on what to do with video.

Yes, they sometimes (not often enough) feature some very good video work by the likes of Dan but what do they do with it?

Give it they lose hundreds of thousands of pounds and hundreds if not thousands of readers every week.

Content could be better linked to advertising but somehow it isn't.

News corp are trying the pay site model right no, and I'm not sure how popular that is, nor am I convinced that there is enough unique high quality video content on their sites.

Imagine as a subscriber to the Guardian and Observer you knew that your favourite photographer/film maker was making a couple of cool movies a week, and you could only get them on the iPad edition of the paper  would you be inclined to pay for the app?

I think so.

It is all about unique content, keeping that content interesting and relevant.

The only way newspapers are going to survive is if they TRULY( and not just make noises that they are) embrace the technology around them, and start to think outside of the box, perhaps becoming a lifestyle portal for readers who they know share their values.

If they carry on the way they are, they are facing oblivion.

Magazines are not so far behind them either....

I offered so very relevant footage to a women's magazine online department only to be told, that is one for the editorial department and when contacted them they said it was down to the online department.

So the 'readers' of the iPad edition never got to see it just because no one could quite be bothered.

Having hundred of thousands or even millions of people reaching into their pocket and PAY for a newspaper is a too potent a drug to give up on..... so they have difficulty accepting that within a generation a newspaper buying public will largely be a thing of the past.


Gordon The Photographer said...

Completely agree with your thoughts as to the direction the newspaper industry is going...and magazines. I read the ES weekend supplement on my iPad (As it's free) and it's just the same as reading a paper version. I SO wish that they made use of the technology i'm holding in my hand to make something really interactive and engaging. If magazines grasped this opportunity I'm sure they could get more subscriptions. I used to subscribe to a few magazines but now i only get one...and it was a gift...

leedsonwheels said...

I'm honestly surprised every time I notice they're still alive.

I'm 26 and I've bought a newspaper once in my life, and I've never seen any of my friends or work colleagues of the same age buy a paper.

Frankly I do not have time to sit down and read the paper and don't know how anyone does, my news digestion either comes from websites or the news on TV. The up coming generations are growing up on freely accessible news and are not developing the long term habits of buying newspapers that previous generations have had.

Maybe the quality of journalism was better a few decades ago, but from what I do read now it's utter rubbish from every paper I've read. It's all just the 'big news' that's available anywhere plus a load of rubbish filler.

Now maybe it was the columnists that helped back this up, however I'd rather listen to the opinion of many people on blog sites than one man or woman's opinion in a newspaper. You could say they're better researched? but that's quite a large assumption, and from what I've seen, they're often not.

So, I'm all out of reasons to go buy a newspaper right now... which is sad, because I see the value in news as a portal into history, the Internet will not provide that portal, pages will be deleted or lost in time.

Dave Keating Photography said...

I agree with you. The newspaper industry in general (and they are not alone) really seemed to have misjudged the changes that are happening, and have been happening, due too technology and the way we consumers use it. The iPod was the handwriting on the wall if we look back, and its effect has spread and will continue to do so. We are a mobile society now. We no longer need the "print" in our hands. Most of us would prefer the multimedia ability of iPads and the likes to view our media content now.

So many changes came so fast, not even sure they saw it coming.

You can innovate, or react. So far print media has been in a react mode. They will have to innovate and take advantage of the new consumption devices we all have access to.

Unknown said...

Hi Guys

Thank you for your comments

To be honest I was expecting some hostile responses from the newspaper community, which so far have not materialised.

I believe that unique quality content of any kind is the way to go.

If you are getting something which you like and find interesting which you cannot get anywhere else you will go to that source.

What is in the newspapers should not be what we were looking at on the net 2 days ago, which is often the case.