Monday, June 18, 2012

How To Fairfax (and WIN!)

A lot of people have been talking about Fairfax and where it went wrong and where it can go right and what needs to be fixed and how far back in time we have to travel in our magical time-fridge to fix it. 

Now, I am in a unique position to address this issue, because on the one hand I am a Fairfax columnist, which means I am a moribund dinosaur just begging to be put out of my misery, but on the other hand I am a blogger, which means I am an agile, exciting citizen journalist taking my rightful place at the peak of the media mountain and set to make a fortune in promoting nappy rash cream. And on a freakish third hand, I have a keyboard in front of me, which means I am a seasoned expert in the media industry and corporate governance.

As such I, like everyone else in the country, know exactly where Fairfax failed, and exactly how it can succeed.

First of all, it needs to invest more in quality journalism. People want to read quality journalism and it is only by investing in quality journalism that money can be made. Nobody ever made money in Australia by not investing in quality journalism - just look at Solomon Lew. Look at him! Weirdly out of proportion, isn't he? You see me point.

Secondly, engage with readers on social media. This might mean "logging in" to  do twitters, or getting a Second Life account, but the important thing is to engage. News is better when it's engaged. A good way to engage with readers is by saying "Thanks for your feedback!" or "That was a good joke about how I'm losing my job! LOL!"

Thirdly, be bloggers. Bloggers are the people who report the news nowadays, not journalists, and being a blogger is the best thing to be. Bloggers are more flexible and intelligent and they are not straitjacketed by old-style notions of what reporting means, so they are free to tell the truth. If you stop being journalists and start being bloggers you will tell more of the truth and less of the not-truth.

Fourthly, stop being bloggers. Blogger don't know anything because they don't wear leather shoes and never hang around in bars with Paul Howes. Bloggers are fine for sitting around in their pyjamas and putting stupid captions on a photo of Tony Abbott in a shower cap, but if you want someone to break into the Watergate you need a good old-fashioned alcoholic, and bloggers will never be that, so stop being bloggers.

Fifthly, don't put up paywalls! What is the first rule of business? Give the customer what they want. Customers don't like paywalls - they will not pay for them. What customers want to pay for is free content. If you give readers free content they will pay through the nose - believe me, the minute you start charging for things, customers will stop paying for them. If you REALLY want to make a lot of money, you have to stop expecting anyone to give you any money. This is an Ironclad Law Of The Media

Sixthly, get a Kickstarter. Kickstarters are a way for Clever People in the Digital Age to make money by asking people to give them money for things. This is different from a paywall because it is crowd-sourcing and is the democratisation of information. What you do is, you set a certain limit that has to be reached, for example "If we raise $2500 I will tell you what the Police Commissioner said at his press conference" and everyone who makes a donation of over $50 gets a t-shirt reading "Journalists Do It Till You're Accountable". In this way everyone feels they have gained Ownership of things, and the media industry thrives in a post-factual world.

Happy Fairfaxing!


Larry Buttrose said...

Do you get anything from the advertising on your blog, Ben? I tried it on mine and got less than bugger all. The web makes it so blissfully easy to look past the ads to what you really want to see. Just ask Fairfax, and News Limited. So they have to put their thinking caps on. Which is very hard for them, as they're not used to it.

Craig Thomler said...

Which brand of nappy rash cream was that again Ben?

Unknown said...

If only Fairfax would listen to your wisdom