MiloMc Opinion Writing

Gaseous Brainstorm: What’s the Future of Publishing and How Will We Pay for It?


Michael Caine: photographer unknown

Print newspapers, it seems, will soon be no more than a minority medium, and so owners of the big news brands are wondering just how they’re going to make money once their main outlet is via the internet – whether it’s accessed via a computer, a mobile device or one of the fancy new touchscreen thingys such as the Skiff or Apple’s new tablet which is expected to be announced next Wednesday (27 January).

Skiff Reader

 Clearly most of the big name news organisations will survive in some form or other, and will either monetize their websites through advertising (which clearly is a difficult business model to sustain) or, like the New York Times have decided, and Rupert Murdoch’s News International are reportedly planning, will charge a subscription fee for their content.

In the UK Murdoch’s plans will also be difficult to sustain whilst the BBC make so much news content available for free online, but he may well persuade David Cameron to do something about that once the Tories get into power (probably).

 Take Your iTablets

 Although some sectors of the publishing industry are hoping that Apple’s new device and others like it will give them a new multimedia platform which will enable them to charge a subscription for their content, it will need to be something special and not just a bigger shinier version of the current iPhone if it is to offer something extra than the current apps such as available from the Guardian, New York Times and Time Magazine.

Apple Tablet mock up

The Guardian’s iPhone App

 The one UK newspaper I read regularly is the Guardian (despite its shameful lack of Scottish news, but then I am heavily involved with Scottish news all day at work). I mainly read the sections that interest me, such as its excellent coverage of culture, media and technology, which in my opinion is only rivalled here in the UK by the BBC.  And  I read it entirely online, either by RSS or on their impressive new iPhone app.

 The app costs a couple of quid, but then you have access to the latest and most popular content from the Guardian, and the ability to save certain sections and content as favourites which you can then access offline.

 There are some limitations – the share function is currently limited to Facebook and email as opposed to the app from the New York Times which has multiple sharing options including Twitter, and there is currently no way to access comments or make a new comment. However these could hopefully be added as time goes on.

Guardian iPhone app promo video (with annoying voice-over)

 What Was That About Print Media Being Dead?

 It is in this climate that I’ve perhaps foolishly decided to put together a pilot issue of a Products of a Gaseous Brain fanzine, something I have been meaning to do for a long time. It will be available both as a downloadable pdf and a print version – watch this space for more details!

 Related Reading:

This article by Jonathan Fields is an interesting take on the latest developments, and continues the ongoing debate around ‘Free’ which Chris Anderson’s book recently sparked off. Whether you’re talking about newspapers, music, or any kind of creative endeavour, it’s a fascinating debate because no one really knows how things will develop yet.

Former Manchester Evening Times writer Ian Wylie, who was made redundant in October last year, has written a very thorough report from a recent conference called ‘New Ways To Make Journalism Pay’. It’s lengthy, but well worth a read if you have any interest in this topic. 

 However Martin Cloake argues over at The Media Blog that what we should be concentrating on is message rather than medium. 

 For a pretty comprehensive run down of news mobile apps see the Online Journalism Blog

And finally, a good overview of what’s likely from Apple’s new tablet from the Guardian (no, I’m not an employee, unfortunately!)

4 replies on “Gaseous Brainstorm: What’s the Future of Publishing and How Will We Pay for It?”

I don’t think advertising will die as a form of monetization. I think that advertisers are still figuring out ways to get the eyes now that the medium is changing. In fact, advertising will become much more interesting going forward…and perhaps a bit ‘big brother’ like. It will all be about location. Devices will be able to track your location and offer up location relevant ads (think of passing a McDonalds and an ad popping up with a deal). Ads will be specifically tailored to the individual based on past purchases. Charging subscriptions or some fee for news might work, but it will take differentiation. This is the current problem with major print media. People don’t want to pay for it if they can get the same info for free in other places (i.e. online). If you can somehow come up with or provide perceived value that’s greater than the cost, I think that subscription based services can work. It’s obviously working with Apple through the 1,000s of niche type apps available through the app store.


Nate, thanks very much for your comment. Very good points about how advertising will evolve. In the past I have found tailored advertising such as within gmail or on Amazon rather creepy but I do understand its usefulness – there are still some privacy concerns though, especially with location tracking.Great point also about differentiation, something Apple does extremely well. Interested to see what they have up their sleeves tomorrow.


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