You know when a newspaper is in trouble when it begins to hire legions of new managers, starts having yet more ‘away days’, when journalists are organised into ‘pods’, and huge amounts of time are diverted to endless emails and huddled session about the importance of ‘multi-media platforms’, usually from people know nothing about them.
This is the fate currently of at least one national newspaper in Britain, and probably others too. The great media revolution is marching on, and struggling to swim against the current of a multimedia World where the young don’t tend to buy newspaper in great numbers anymore, is a remarkably tough call.
And out of this maelstrom of change some winners are beginning to emerge, defying the naysayers who said that it was all over for the ‘dead tree press’. Take for instance the London Evening Standard, which when I worked for it a few years back sold just over 350,000 copies in a capital city of over 7 million. Under new ownership, the Standard has simply removed its cover charge and is free. And while it still doesn’t seem to be easily available outside of inner London, it has more than doubled its circulation. This is particularly good news for advertisers who are flocking back to the paper.
Take the middle market Daily Mail, a tabloid with a very clear view of where it stands, and is as much the scourge of liberal left wingers as it is to parts of the British Establishment. Its successful juxtapositioning of stories and features that have popular appeal has meant that the Mail has largely been untouched by the falling circulation crises of other newspapers.
The other success stories are the specialist, niche magazines. I can think of a good number here in Britain, and I feel sure that the situation is similar across the pond. The satirical magazine Private Eye still enjoys huge success, as does the conservative Spectator magazine. The Editor of The Oldie, a magazine not surprisingly dedicated to ‘Seniors’, tells me that his magazine has never done better – and this in the middle of a major economic recession.
What all of this might be telling us is that there are readers and potential readers out there for what we old fashioned types still call journalism. And while the crude power of the right wing media moguls such as Rupert Murdoch may hopefully begin to wane along with his declining publications and ludicrously shrill broadcast operations, the smaller, more specialist, more focussed – and above all, more honest niche publishers seem to have a future ahead of them.