The Future of Journalism | Bruce Turkel

Vanessa Horwell is Chief Visibility Officer at ThinkInk. Vanessa works with companies in the U.S., UK and Europe to improve their visibility through strategic public relations and new media channels. Her views here are excerpted from an article she wrote in Mobile Marketer.

Although I am in PR, I am not isolated from the events taking place in the newspaper industry. You know why? Because they are a lifeline. Without newspapers and the existence of quality journalism and print media, the PR industry and indeed the entire advertising industry will suffer in a very big way.


In PR, companies rely on us to get them in the papers, on TV, on the radio, and then finally the web. And usually in that order.

You’ll probably find that statement counterintuitive in a digital age where we all talk about convergence, emerging media, social networking, search and online ROI. But that’s marketer-speak.

In non-marketer speak, it’s much simpler. “Get us into The New York Times or Wall Street Journal” is what many companies understand and see great value in. Not the Huffington Post or Gawker.

Many consumers just don’t hold the same value for online content as they do for print. They’ve grown up to online being free. They’re used to content being available at an instant, but without regard for the efforts to create it. Print still represents something fixed and tangible, and it’s going to be one hell of a struggle for us to change this perception. Here’s one example:

We had a client who complained that his company was being featured in Forbes.com, but not the print version. We argued that 15 million eyeballs seeing his story online would make far more impact than the 5.4 million print readers … but the client wasn’t convinced. He wanted the prestige of print. He thought it was more valuable, regardless of readership numbers. And he also told us this … “who wants to be online if it’s free?”

If something is free, it’s because we haven’t paid for it. We didn’t spend our hard-earned income to buy it, so we don’t hold it in the same value system as something for which we have paid.

I’m no psychologist, but that’s pretty much how I feel about my paid subscriptions. I value them and look forward to them. And if I find content that I want, enjoy and feel is of value to my life, why should I expect NOT pay for it? I have to pay for everything else.

Let’s frame this issue in another way. Hire talented people, incur overheads and operating costs, and start giving away your services for free. Offer a great product, but don’t monetize it. What’s going to happen? Your business is going to fail spectacularly.

And that is precisely what happened with the newspapers.

In media’s migration to the web, they forgot one of the most fundamental lessons about business … charge what you are worth.

We will be creating more valuable vehicles for content: consumers will be willing to pay for them and advertisers will pay more to reach these consumers. And so begins a new chapter.

Because in life, there is no such thing as free.

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