Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Saving journalism with specialization

As newspapers suffer at the hands of free online news, charging for specialized, in-depth content online is the latest model in the race to save the papers. And some experts are saying it just might work.

"Expertise in a field other than journalism will go a long way," said University of Toronto media studies professor Karen McCrindle. She added that specialization in a subject like science or business gives emerging journalists a competitive edge when basic news is accessed for free. According to her, special-interest stories, news analyses and columns will likely become the kind of news consumers will have to pay for.

Last week, the New York Times announced that it will launch a pay wall for regular, high-volume online readers in 2011, allowing free access only to occasional readers. Media expert and Internet specialist Clay Shirky is skeptical about whether current online pay models can work for newspapers. He argues that saving journalism itself, not newspapers, should be the focus.

"I wouldn't call it a crisis, it's more of an opportunity," said McCrindle of the present state of print journalism. "I see it more as a revolution of sorts," she added.

Indeed, the Internet is a revolutionary and disruptive technology, and just as with the printing press and the telegraph, it will take journalists time to adjust. But it's not all bad. "We're delivering more information now than ever, and consumers are much more involved and interactive than ever before," said McCrindle.

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