Having talked about the apparent efforts of digital information to look as much like print as possible in the last post, a satirical French website has decided to stop just pretending to look like print and actually launch a really-made-of-paper edition. The Financial Times article described this move as “making a mockery of the newspaper industry’s dash for digital”.
I don’t really agree with that, I would like to think it will demonstrate that neither format has made the other obsolete and that as readers, we would still like to have the choice.
That’s my take on the customers’ view, but what’s the business case for doing this?
Unsurprisingly, the main reason seems to be financial. It’s a familiar story with many online news sites: Bakchich has not been able to find a successful online business model. Add to that the huge drop-off in advertising (which is often relied upon as the main revenue-earner) and you end up struggling.
By contrast, the business model for print is well-established: sell copies and make money. However, the point that interested me most was the expectation that the quality of content will be higher due to lack of (digital) space – the print version will be only 20 pages long. The editor, Nicolas Beau is quoted as suggesting that there will be a “qualitative leap” in the standard of writing and editing as they will need to be more selective.
Quality, or the lack of it, has been a constant criticism of web-based information.
Is it accurate? All information literacy training urges students to check the source, the date, the author, apply common sense – are the facts corroborated anywhere else?
The other criticism I’ve seen, albeit less often, is slightly different. The suggestion is that “more is less” – the sheer quantity means lower quality. Anyone can publish now and “play at journalism”, and the web is becoming full of endless drivel as people spout on about this and that, just as they feel and no one’s bothering to edit themselves or be selective…and that it’s boring. Twitter has been a prime candidate for this type of criticism.
Of course this is sometimes the case, but print isn’t immune from producing drivel either and I don’t think digital publishing, by default, should (or does) mean no editing or selectivity, often rather the reverse! Surely editing is exactly what you have to do to compose those brief sentences on Twitter? And the respected blogs tend to be subject-specific, which means being selective with the content.
I’d rather see the ability for everyone to have a go as a positive disruption within the world of publishing. And it’s a great opportunity for all non-journalists to learn at least two new writing-skills: editing and selecting.