David Chavern, president & CEO of the Newspaper Association of America, recently penned an opinion piece on Digiday entitled Ad blocking threatens democracy. The convoluted logic in this article illustrates a big part of why newspapers and other many news publishers continue to struggle.
It suggests that users — and their increased use of ad blockers on publishers’ websites — are the main problem, an assertion that places blame squarely on the people that publishers used to call customers and charges them with freeloading, a nice word for stealing. (We already know how well that course of action worked for the music industry.)
Pointing fingers at users is convenient because it absolves from responsibility the publishers themselves who often make a crap product no one is willing to pay for and who pollute good content and destroy UX with more ads than a NASCAR stock car.
And people are just sick of it. (Cue Twister Sister.)
The solution — if there is one — lies not in asking, “What do newspapers (or local TV news programs, etc.) look like in the 21st Century?” The solution lies in asking, “What does a news organization (local, national, international) look like in the 21 Century?” The latter is question is not predisposed to a particular media solution.
Answer this question correctly and then you can have discussions about content delivery mechanisms and monetization strategies, things which must first account for the needs/wants of the end user rather than the advertisers.
Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBO have proven that people will pay for quality content they can’t get anywhere else. So does such a thing translate to news? I don’t know.
It could be that news is now so ubiquitous that people will no longer pay for it regardless of its “quality.” And if that’s truly the case, then it’s time publishers stop pretending the ship isn’t sinking and start looking for lifeboats.