A few days back, I read a very interesting piece by Jeff Jarvis on ‘The Great Restructuring’, in which he talked about fundamental changes happening in the economy and society. He also talked of an economy (at least in part) built on the abundance of knowledge, which then led to the subject of replanting business models.

It took me back to a discussion I once had with a friend on the role of newspapers, and the new forms of media. The role of newspapers, and ‘tangible media’ in general was a hot topic of discussion then. Steve Rubel had the “The End of Tangible Media is Clearly in Sight” post which put 2014 as the year of demise (in the US), and got quite a few responses, including some folk who disagreed with it, and some who agreed a bit but disagreed mostly. There wasn’t much of disagreement on the subject of newspapers, and it was generally agreed that Digital was indeed a great disrupter. Newspapers have  been accused of trying to replant their offline model on their web. Perhaps rightly so, since it clearly doesn’t seem to be working.

In that conversation, we’d used ‘new media’ a little differently from the platform based (internet and mobile) approach. We discussed three forms of ‘new media’ –

  • some entities about whom the media writes about – people and  organisations . The net population already shares a lot of the content they produce on the web platform – via blogs, social networks, platforms like YouTube, Flickr etc, and lots of organisations are using the web as a broadcast medium – Marketing as media
  • social networks and other services which consolidate a lot of the content generated above in one location, and web only news sites (anything from Rediff to Instablogs and niche news sites)
  • some entities who’re already in the communication/network business – these could be companies like Nokia (handset manufacturers who are an access point to the web), telecom operators like Vodafone (who also act as an access point), or even companies like Cisco, who I think will go further than just provide media solutions

While there’ve been a few setbacks – Nokia shutting down Mosh, its content sharing service as a result of dubious content posted, Vodafone playing bully to opt-in-SMS service MyToday and various lawsuits against Google (YouTube) on copyrighted content, I’m hoping these are nothing more than teething problems of a radical overhaul.

Depending on various factors, like socio economic conditions, technology penetration, to name a few, ‘The  Great Restructuring’ would happen differently in different places. Like other restructurings before, some parts of the population would remain unaffected.

Meanwhile, as mentioned in the post, it indeed is a time of opportunity, and definitely for newspapers too, at least in this part of the world. It only depends on how much they’re willing to shed their old ways of doing business (especially when it isn’t making the revenue it used to be) and how willing they are to listen to the collective consciousness. Even with the ‘new media’ and the proliferation of content producers, newspapers could still find ways of delivering value. (excellent debate happening here)

Earlier, everyone read a newspaper and therefore it was the place for a product to be seen by its potential consumers. Since the first part changed, the second has too. If increasing media fragmentation is the future, then what newspapers could be doing wrong is seeing their product/s as the only media/destination. Instead, they should perhaps (at least) listen to the Chaos Scenarioexplore a few options, utilise their resources to be preferred content choices in as many fragments as possible, irrespective of the platform, and fight battles in each fragment separately. This would also mean that basis the dynamics of each fragment, different revenue models might evolve for each fragment.

until next time, for now its Calvinball rules :)

PS. Must Read – IBM’s study – Beyond Advertising