When views matter as much as news
September 19, 2008 by grzegorz.piechota
Updated: When these newspapers hit newsstands and subscribers’ homes, everybody has already known what happened. So what has mattered more?
(Read some reactions to this post below.)
The US single day front pages featuring the same photo of Elizabeth Rose, a specialist at the Lehman Brothers, prove what a commodity the news becomes nowadays.
UK Guardian’s blogger Roy Greenslade writes in his weekly column at the London Evening Standard:
”The collapse of Lehman Brothers was a fact, as was Merrill Lynch’s sale and the US government’s rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. What matters more, much more, is the analysis and the commentary to make those facts understandable.”
These are the simplest questions that should be asked, even if the answers are the hardest to investigate:
- Why has it happened?
- What can be done?
- What does it mean to us all?
(And many newspapers miss even asking these questions, so as Juan Antonio Giner of Innovation Media Consulting writes, we get ”macro-financial news that readers don’t care and don’t understand.”)
Greenslade gives an example that some readers are happy to pay for the quality and updated comment. It is the Breaking Views website that charges 15,000 subscribers and has a very loyal readership (renewal rate is 95%). It is a niche website, but also a very interesting case.
”Breakingviews.com is a London-based website that publishes short analyses by 25 expert commentators based in London, New York, Paris, Washington, San Francisco and Madrid.
Its online content is also reproduced in print columns in many of the world’s most influential daily newspapers, such as France’s Le Monde, Spain’s El Pais and Germany’s Handelsblatt. Until recently, the column also featured in the Wall Street Journal and WSJ Europe. That arrangement came to an end after Rupert Murdoch’s takeover.”
[New York Times as well as the UK Daily Telegraph have just announced they will carry Breaking Views' columns].
Greenslade claims it is another example of how media can develop due to the digital revolution:
”Without the huge costs associated with producing and distributing newsprint, it enables a small group of highly-skilled journalists — whether in the fields of finance, sport or gardening — to write for specific audiences that require expert information and analysis. Both sides gain.”
On other hand, Breaking Views is just filling the niche that other media, including newspapers, have abondened. And now the publishers are buying the service from editors and journalists they used to employ.
Newspapers have outsourced their core mission: comment and advice. What an irony!
Update: some reactions to this post
For those who hated newspapers looking like clones, a designer Mario Garcia offers some “Strategies to create a front page with impact”.
Luis Vilches of the Virginian-Pilot (whose front page is present in the collection above) disagrees with all the critics:
“I find it cheap to put this fronts together and say it was a confortable solution. I have to disagree. They might look the same. But papers are designed, at least the Pilot, that I know, to satisfy the need of their readers to know all about it. They are not designed for pdf or jpg collectors. I agree with the picture choice, [it] shows desolation of a worker of one of the companies involved. I don’t see a problem with it. Our readers don’t care about other papers.”
Juan Antonio Giner of Innovation explains that the news commodity is not only a design issue:
“It’s about the daily dilemma of newspapers around the world.They still concentrate their coverage on yesterday’s news. Not on the news of today or tomorrow, but on old news that already has been watched, read and heard many hours before. So, this picture is not the issue. Just like the repetitive and trivial coverage of what the big boys are doing to transfer their mistakes to all of us, the U.S. taxpayers, is not the issue newspapers should be focusing on. The issue here is you and me, the readers. How this incredible crisis will affect us.”
Jay Small of Scripps Interactive Newspapers Group reminds that “coverage doesn’t equal insight”:
“Few in American journalism take on the challenge of explaining a story this severe and complex in terms that would be truly useful to everyday people that don’t happen to be economists.”