Newspapers and Magazines still looking for a digital strategy

Greenslade is on holiday, so one relies more on the excellent Innovations in Newspapers, beautifully illustrated, for the blogged news of newspapers. Juan Antonio Giner spots a characteristically shrewd, but unusually inconclusive, analysis of the Murdoch bid for the Wall Street Journal from the Independent‘s Hamish McRae. McRae’s analysis and lack of follow-through may soon disapear behind a pay wall, so here is his intro:

Journalists inevitably find it difficult to comment dispassionately on events in their own industry, and the bid by Rupert Murdoch for Dow Jones is no exception. But the fact that Mr Murdoch should feel Dow Jones is worth so much more than the market had previously valued it at says something interesting about the way in which the newspaper industry is adapting to the new technologies. There is life in the old dog yet.
……..(and conclusion)……….
The one thing I am very sure about is that physical print media will continue to be very important for at least another generation…..

Well that is in one way quite reassuring but he does not justify his optimism (I am not myself so confident about the inkiness of newsprint for the next 30 years). McRae does not see, does not consider, that one way in which print newspapers may ‘survive’ is by becoming digital editions which are themselves the newspaper. Exactly the newspaper, though not of course newsprint. Journalists seem to discount the possibility that digital editions may replace, and satisfactorily replace, print editions in a way in which web sites by definition cannot. Digital editions have now replaced printed issues for scientific and technical journals. Yes replaced. Web sites do something else, something different that they can do better than a paper or a digital edition. Rupert Murdoch sees all this, or feels it in his bones. That is why Rupert thinks that the WSJ is worth $5 Billion, or $2,500 per subscriber/copy sold. Rupert is right, the best newspapers have a great future and it will certainly be digital.

Juan Antonio Giner is also gloomy about the prospects for the Conde Nast Portfolio magazine, but he likes Monocle. If he is correct in his defoliation of the first issue from NY (‘caviar and peanut butter’ how cruel, what a dissonance on the palette) the planners of the Portfolio launch will be much to blame for not producing a digital edition of their launch issue. If you must have a five month gap between your launch issue and your first regular issue, it would be much better as a primarily digital issue. That would make the print issue a collectors item, that would would also maximise the chances of distribution everywhere (not a copy of Portfolio or indeed Monocle to be seen in Florence this last month); importantly also it would not hang around getting battered or neglected in kiosks.