Archive for December, 2009

The problem of how to make money from newspaper websites continued to be a discussion point in 2009 with no clear consensus reached.

Rupert Murdoch indicated his group of papers would introduce a pay wall in the future, but the tricky details remain of how payments should be charged and what additional value online readers ought to gain for parting with their money, if any.

Most agree that readers are unlikely to suddenly pay for a service they’d been used to having for free. Given that the nationals offer a broadly similar online experience, the paper that switches to fee-paying first is bound to struggle to gain paying readers to begin with. But what we may see is a gentleman’s agreement, where the nationals eventually wade into fee-paying waters together, forcing the hand of online readers.  

Johnston Press led the way by trialling a £5 fee for 6 of their weeklies, but the relatively minute scale of the trial indicated the hesitancy with which they made their move. A Johnston Press editor admitted in a presentation to a group of student journalists at City College Brighton and Hove that he could see no reason why people would pay for online content when it was so easy to find the same news elsewhere for free.

The Express and Echo, an Exeter-based daily which is part of the Mail group, decided to offer the first few paragaphs of articles for free, directing readers to its paper for the full story. While in essence the format reflects the direction paid content is likely to go in  (basic information for free, detailed content for paying readers) their choice would be unlikely to work nationally or internationally, where readers expect their news online to be immediate, regardless of where they may live.

2010 will be an interesting year to see the direction online journalism takes. Who knows, by next December the same debate may still rage on, with everyone still unsure about how to make newspaper websites profitable.

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So, Peter Mandelson has announced that universities will face cuts in funding of £135 million next year.

It would be easy to parrot some of the outcries already made in the media, but it should be said that the news isn’t especially surprising. Everyone knew the Government would make cuts, and put simply, university funding is an obvious place to make those cuts.

Despite the falling value of degrees and rising the costs of paying for them, more and more students are entering further education, only to graduate saddled in debt, with qualifications of questionable worth.
With the number of university entrants rising consistently – regardless, it seems, of the cost to worth ratio of university education – the Government are probably justified in assuming that larger class sizes and fewer teachers are unlikely to deter students from university. Frequently, students have little or no idea of what education they can expect to receive for the ever-increasing fees they pay, what skills they can reasonably hope to learn or improve on, and what their employment prospects are likely to be at the end of their degrees.

Instead, these students graduate with the expectation of entering glamorous and interesting careers, only to find themselves indistinguishable from the countless others applying for the most coveted jobs.
It comes as a genuine shock to many that rather than enter into the dream careers they’d envisaged, it can prove difficult to enter into any kind of employment at all.

So what can be done? Most students appreciate their degrees are not going to ensure employment once they’ve graduated, but it would be useful if universities ran compulsory modules aimed at improving skills that would bolster employment opportunities. At the very least, graduates should be able to write to a reasonable level and should be proficient in Microsoft Office. But more than that, graduates should be taught to know what employers are looking for and what they expect. It proves a dispiriting realisation for many students that university holidays spent working at the local pub might have been better spent on unpaid internships.

In any event, students should graduate having some idea of what awaits them in the job market – for better or for worse. If the Government is to encourage such a large proportion of students to go to university at a greater cost than ever before, it should at least make sure that graduates are gaining something tangible for their time and money.

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Earlier this week on the Today Show capital punishment was being debated.

The first thought that entered my mind was really? Is this still being debated?

For many, the fact that people in England were being hanged as recently as 1964 is a shameful one – a shocking and dark reminder of a less civilised past.

But over in Daily Mail land, the opposite is true. According to the vast majority of readers’ comments (an interesting, albeit depressing read, if you’re feeling brave) every paedophile and re-offending criminal is proof of why we need to get tough on crime and bring back the death penalty to right society’s ills. Forget about the evidence that suggests the death penalty proves no greater a deterrent than sentencing. Forget about the moral question of whether society bears some responsibility for its criminals. And forget about the issue of wrongful death penalties, because in Daily Mail land these issues don’t even make for footnotes.

The story of the postmaster’s son who was murdered by three “career criminals” may as well have been a call to arms for all those who feel the justice system is too soft. And if the story was a call to arms, the reader feedback proved it was a unanimous success.

The reader feedback might seem shocking if it wasn’t already clear how many people were in favour of the death penalty. A Sun survey in 2008 had a 99% vote for reintroducing the death penalty

Scary times.

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Hello There

This is my blog.

In it, I will take a selective look at the things going on around us in the world of journalism, media and current affairs. Inevitably these things will be shaped by whim and chance, and on occasion, the important stuff you’re meant to have an opinion on.

Because there are so many other blogs that do this kind of thing so well, I’ll attempt to write about things that are slightly different, or off the radar, at the risk that those things may well be off the radar for a perfectly good reason.

It could all end in ignominious failure, but thankfully, if it does, I can make a retreat in merciful anonymity. Ahh, Lovely anonymity.

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