Saturday, June 2, 2012

House of M: Sunset Boulevard

People ask me, "Are newspapers dying?" And I tell them, "Depends."

"What do you mean?"

So I'd give them 'the usual'. The usual is mostly based on an article I read in The Atlantic, that newspapers in Japan - Yomiuri Shinbun and Asahi Shinbun - are still going strong.

Yomiuri Shinbun was reported by The Atlantic as having more than 3 million daily circulation. That's 3 million actual newspapers being sold. Wikipedia puts it at 10 million, every day, with a record of 14 million combined morning and evening editions circulation in 2002.

That's around 10 per cent the population of Japan (127 million, according to the 2011 census). In Malaysia, the highest readership is enjoyed by Harian Metro, at 4 million plus (I believe it is 4.3 million now). From a population of 28 million (2010 census), that's pretty decent, right?

Well, the great Yomiuri Shinbun and Asahi Shinbun (8 million in circulation) are also facing a decline. Several years ago, when OhMyNews! (an online news portal), fresh from installing a new government in South Korea, entered Japan, it closed its doors after two years.

Gone were those days, as Yomiuri and gang are also facing a decline. I do not have the numbers, but I am sure it will pop up soon. And yet the numbers for South East Asia is said to be growing.

However, the failure of digital media such as OhMyNews in attracting readers should not be seen as a plus sign for traditional media. In fact, it just shows to me a worrying trend - how paid media is lagging behind free media.

I am watching some shows online, such as VGHS - that's Video Game High School for those who might not know - and I am willing to buy the DVD or simply pay for access to the entire thing. I like it that much.

I follow NicePeter and EpicLloyd on YouTube, and I would pay for their stuff, even though it is free. I also donate RM100 or 30 dollars to wikipedia (almost) every year because I read it nearly four hours a day.

It takes money to create good stuff, good content, and what is missing from the declining newspapers or content websites is not a button or a gimmick. I believe that it goes back to the product. To the content.

If you make something good enough, I believe people will pay for your shit. There are, of course, multiple revenue streams, but the sites and the products that do survive are usually good ones.

But how do you define good? Well, if it connects with people, it is good. If it doesn't, it sucks. At least for most people who do not connect to the bloody thing.

The next 10-20 years will all be about monetising media as most media companies shift and become platform agnostics, or die. There will be many new ways to consume content, on whatever platform. Trust me - ALL media companies are trying new things.

I'm just afraid that in all the media rush, they all forget their own product. Newspaper companies don't sell dead trees.

"Dead trees! Dead trees with ink on them! Get your dead trees!"

No. Newspaper companies, and all media companies, sell content. And the one thing they can't forget is consumers - readers, viewers, things with molecular structure and this is mah boomstick and yadda yadda yadda.

Content people, meanwhile, can't afford to be arrogant isolationists or elitists.

It is a sunset industry, but please ride off into it rather than be left alone in the cold.