Is This the Inevitable Answer: A Steve Jobs for Local Newsers, and iTunes for News?

One of the first comments to come my way after the debut of localtvnews was the idea that the “here’s your news, we picked the stories for you, and we’re feeding it to you at 6” mentality just had to die.  Cable news proved that, largely spelling the end of the once mighty nightly network newscast.  Local news continues with the formula of morning, noon, evening and night as it fumbles around on the web searching for a winning formula.

David Carr may have the ultimate “a la carte” solution:  iTunes for news.  In a Monday morning post on nytimes.com, Carr devotes his The Media Equation column to the idea that beyond picking and choosing one’s own news stories, according to what you are truly interested in (perhaps it’s city hall, yes;  convenience store shootings, no–or, maybe, the other way around), the even more important solution to struggling local news operations is the business model:  you’re going to have to pay for it.  “Free is not a business model,” Carr quotes Craig Moffett of Bernstein Research.

As Steve Jobs revolutionized the world of music, perhaps someone will do the same for information–providing a platform for consumers to pick and choose exactly those stories they want to see, and are willing to pay for.  As local advertising giants like car dealers and department stores drastically scale back their spot TV spending, stations are suffering, cutting costs, and sending journalists packing.

Where’s our Steve Jobs?

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5 Comments

Filed under Local News 2.0

5 responses to “Is This the Inevitable Answer: A Steve Jobs for Local Newsers, and iTunes for News?

  1. Brendan McLaughlin

    I do believe local news has to become less appointment TV and more on-demand, but I’m highly skeptical that the a-la carte approach will ever take hold. Computer surfing is “active” television is “passive” and always will be.

    Sure, some people might take the time to choose from a menu of news options, but the great joy of television watching for me is to flop on the couch and let smart and talented people inform, entertain and enlighten me. The value we as journalists offer to viewers is our ability to determine which stories each day are the most important and relevant, and to tell those stories in a balanced and interesting way.

    We have a future in television news only if we do that better.

  2. Brendan Keefe

    My sister, VP of Sales for Hearst, gave the answer to TV Week in a published interview:

    TVWeek: “Is broadcast television getting an unearned bad rep with many media planners and being labeled as “old” media?”

    Ms. Keefe: “Imagine that Steve Jobs announced today a brand new media, one where we were going to hang a transmitter on a tall tower and transmit compelling entertainment, meaningful news about the world, the country and your local community, into 98% of all homes 24 hours a day, seven days a week! This wireless technology will broadcast in high definition, bringing gorgeously crisp pictures, for free! Not only that, when bad things happen to your community like tornadoes, floods, blizzards, wildfires, hostage situations, this new media will provide vital information to you on how you can protect yourself and your family. Imagine the response to that announcement. Imagine the advertisers clamoring to be a part of this new technology.

    Well, it already exists.

    Yet, because it was invented 60 years ago, it does tend to get short shrift of advertisers’ attention. This isn’t newspapers, dependent on a distribution system that was invented in the 19th century. This is a high-tech, state-of-the-art, modern delivery system.”

  3. jb

    your sister lifted that line from the fax machine industry…who lifted it from the newspaper industry who lifted it from the billboard industry who lifted it from somebody else….that answer is about as old as I am and THATS exactly the problem with the TV News industry. Everybody is looking backwards and not forwards. TV News needs a back channel. whether its mobile or built into the remote you need to be able to easily talk back to your tv. When that happens advertisers will become interested again. Until then they will go elsewhere like they are doing today. EOS.

  4. The whole iTunes idea is flawed on so many levels: mainly, it’s the fact that people are willing to pay for music because they play it over and over again. News is disposable. Also, an individual piece of music tends to be unique – but when an earthquake happens, it’s not like the only way you can find out what happens is by paying a dollar to download the article about it. Put another way, how much effort does it take to compose, rehearse and record a track? Now how much time does it take a journalist to write a standard article? Very little journalism has value approaching that of music. Oh, and I could add the fact that the business model for news is ad-based but music’s business model is not.

    There are some lessons we can learn though: Apple established an infrastructure for music distribution online and offline (and annoyingly until now tied in downloaded songs to Apple players) – the news orgs haven’t done that for news. Will there be a time when we all carry Kindles? More likely we’ll just use our iPods and mobile phones, and the news org that creates an iTunes for those may prosper.

    Secondly, iTunes learned about you and made recommendations. It was web-native, not shovelware – I’ve yet to see a news website with anything like the social angle that iTunes has.

    Thirdly, it made content available that you couldn’t get elsewhere, bringing producers under one roof, saving the user time and creating value. Music is not search-friendly and ‘discoverability’ is social; news (text) is very search-friendly so it is harder to add value there – although broadcast news orgs may have an advantage in this respect.

    The key point, however, is that if you are to charge people for news you need to add some value, not just shovel your content online. That’s very very difficult when accessing information is so very very easy.

  5. Pingback: An iTunes model for news? More difficult than you think. | Online Journalism Blog

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