The print edition of the Rocky Mountain News has hit the newsstands for the last time. It’s no secret that I have little time for those who are crying over the death of print. In fact, I believe that journalism has never had better opportunities than right now.The money in media has not just ‘disappeared’. It’s still there. The only difference is that now the playing field is opened up and the best will get their hands on the dollars – instead of it being limited to the few who could afford the cushioning luxury of an established masthead.
If established mastheads had moved effectively online, then their brands would survive. I firmly believe that in any business if the market likes your product then you survive. And media are no different. Do a good job, meet market need, and you survive.
The Rocky tried to go online, but all they did was degrade the quality and credibility of their brand in the process. They did a Web 1.0 operation and faked a bit of Web 2.0 by including unmoderated reader comments on everything from murders to the weather. The Rocky added absolutely nothing to the print edition by going online. All they did was further deplete the paid for market.
And that’s not a bad thing. Print newspapers are about the most environmentally unsound yet ‘accepted’ standard thing here in Colorado. I find it completely ridiculous that there are environmental reporters who are crying over the death of the newspaper. But I digress… (as usual)
The Rocky Mountain News online masthead is still up for sale, along with its archives. And it’s the only thing that would be worth buying anyway. So if I had the money, this is what I’d do:
1. Spend money on a relaunch of the Rocky online. Brand it as the community news source it built its reputation on.
2a. Run a couple of workshops for the public on how to be a part of the new Rocky, including how to contribute stories (in either text, video, audio or all of them).
2b. Invite the community to contribute news stories to be edited and considered for publication.
3. Vet the contributions as they come in, and invite contributors to make adjustments as needed.
4. Invite the most vocal, opinionated people to write regular paid columns.
5. Trawl the web to add value to the articles posted (and aim to do it with every story) – by linking to relevant educational sites, background info, interactive elements, etc. This includes other newspapers/sources. It means journalism really gets to be transparent, credible, authentic. You know, all that stuff it should always have been.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until I’m purple in the face – the future of journalism is social. And involving the community to contribute to their own news source means democracy and the essential recommendations of the Hutchins Commission in the 1940s will be enabled far better than it ever was before.
That’s why this is an exciting time for journalism. The only sobbing I’m doing is over the traditional journalists that don’t see it.