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Daily newsmagazines and the future of print journalism

Reporting is now a commdity, but journalism isn't - what implications does that have for print?

In the excellent post I mention in the intro, George F. Snell concludes: "If newspapers and magazines want to survive they should focus on journalism and leave the reporting to the web." He draws a sharp distinction between journalism and reporting and argues that the web has made reporting into a commodity (do check out the full post).

I think this is a very useful prism to see the strenghts and weaknesses of print and web through. I don't agree that bloggers can't do journalism though. If we are to use Snell's definitions of journalism and reporting, I think some bloggers at times do better journalism than paid journalists because mainstream media, and especially news sites, focus too much of their resources on reporting (update 10/12: for more on bloggers and journalism, see e.g  my contribution to "Playing Footsie with the FTS?").

But today's overcrowded marketplace and tough financial conditions challenges media organisations to look very closely at how they can add unique value, and Snell offers an excellent prism to see recent print innovations through. 

A few days ago Norwegian tabloid Dagbladet relaunched its Sunday edition in what can best be described as magazine format:


I wasn't too impressed because it read like a smaller and thinner version of the same old Dagbladet. I'll probably still buy it from time to time, weekends being just about the only time of the week I still buy newspapers (that and when I'm travelling and short on laptop battery-time), but I would have been much more impressed if it came out looking something like this:


I must admit I shamelessly nicked this photo of Portugees daily newsmagazine I from Mark Hamilton post about it. This is a post I've been wanting to blog about for some time as Mark offers a really interesting review of "I". It's not so much the format that captures my imagination, though it seems to fit the content well, as the fact that it promises serious journalism that would satisfy Snell's definition - and it is def. something I would consider an attractive buy.

Not every day though. There's no way I could fit a daily newsmagazine into my daily routine, I've got more than enough with keeping up with my hundreds of RSS-feeds during the week, but it would be perfect for the slower pace of the weekend.

Incidentally, the newsmagazine might also be the direction Mecom is considering to take its newspapers in. The company is launching a pilot project in two of its Norwegian regional newspapers where these are to focus on stories rather than channels, and resources are to be divided 50/50 between print and online. The pilot-project is inspired by Danish media company Nordjydske Medier's "fully integrated" multimedia model, and we could see Mecom's pilot newspapers focus more on storytelling and analysis in print and more on news reporting online. It will be interesting to see how it works out...


Newspapers aggregate material into an attractive package, which includes reporting.

I think reporting will always be important for regional newspapers and city-based papers because journalists do it better than amateurs. I don't see many bloggers in the courtroom or at local council meetings.

While people may not buy a paper to get the football scores, the paper needs to give the scores to set the context for analysis and commentary on the games.

That makes reporting a fundamental part of journalism and it always will be.

I'm like you when it comes to weekend reading. I get the weekend papers home delivered, but only scan metropolitan papers at work during the week.

It has surprised me that weekend circulation has fallen greater than weekday circulation in Australia over the past two years.

Might the lesser decline in weekday circulation have something to do with corporate subscriptions? Just a thought...

As for reporting vs journalism I am just saying that Snell's post is a useful prism to see the strenghts and weaknesses of print vs web thru - but I also think that we need to rethink how we can best adapt to this new reality.

I agree that news organisations can't give up on reporting, but these days I - and most of the people I know, including my parents - get their news reporting online when it happens. And we are increasingly unwilling to dish out for yesterday's news.

My parents, by the way, are not on sites like Twitter, they get their instant reporting from news sites, but fret over how news sites become more and more alike - covering all the same stories, often in a very similar same way (often a result of news sites nicking each other's stories withouth linking to the source).

I think for me to consider print packages an attractive buy, I'd like the focus to be on something I can't get online. Perhaps a short recap of the big news/headlines/football scores - but those are all things I can get online. Incidentally, I have to buys newspapers throughout the week, which I mostly just skim, because I'm a media commentator and it's part of my job to read newspapers, but most of the papers I look forward to buying and actually read are more magazine-like wknd newspapers.

By the way, Adam's post on the death of the news package is also interesting in this connection:

There's a huge argument to be made here about how news organisations need to refocus / rethink how they allocate their resources in the face of changing media habits, and I think online as well we need to rethink how we do things to add unique value.

There are so many new tools now that make this job easier, and some media organisations are starting to make really good use of some of them. For instance, I loved how Jo Gearey/The Times used Coveritlive to cover this year's budget - having the paper's commentators provide realtime analysis as the budget was presented, while copying in realtime reactions from interest organisations and keeping a dialogue with readers going. Norwegian newspaper Drammens Tidende has used Coveritlive for court and council meetings - also a more dynamic approach which adds a whole new dimension. This doesn't mean that the key headlines won't need reporting, but one can e.g. report just the key headlines and link to the Coveritlive event. Computer assited reporting (CAR), is another way into some really innovative online work which in this context we probably should call journalism.

The opportunities to innovate without spending more than time and effort are def. there, so it's a pity if we let ourselves be chained to the past way of doing things as that will surely be our demise. In these challenging financial times most media organisations have to find ways to make do with fewer hands, and it's too easy to revert to only doing reporting - again, I think it's a recipe for newspaper death. At the same time though, we have every opportunity to rethink, to adapt, to try news ways of doing things, we even have the tools...

I agree, by the way, that there are many reporting jobs local blogger's wont step in to cover. However, that doesn't mean some bloggers don't do good journalism at times, only that most bloggers aren't too interested in filling in for local journalists.

They key reason I think bloggers at times do better journalism than journalists is that some of them cover issues so in-depth that a journalist's often scatterbrain approach to newsgathering doesn't come anywhere close to rivalling this blogger's dedicated coverage of his or her chosen subject, be it food or finance.

Still, it will be interesting to see how The Guardian's local bloggers project plays out, and on council reporting see also Alison Gow's post on this (if you haven't already):

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