Surviving Convergence

Here’s an interesting way of looking at what we journalists do. According to Duke University’s Professor Hamilton, media provides four kinds of information: producer information, which relates to how users do their job, consumer information, entertainment information and voter information.
Consumer information is crucial to pulling users to access media. Comparing today’s popular media, say newspapers (at least in the Indian context), with new media, say Internet, then becomes crucial in understanding the dynamics of media convergence and business models.
Last month, I was looking for tenants for a new Paying Guest accommodation at my home. I advertised in a local newspaper, at a nominal payment. The ad appeared on a Saturday, and two people phoned me for inquiries the next day. The issue ended there.
A week later, I advertised on two real estate websites, for free. I was flooded with inquiries and finally managed to rent out the room at a great price. Three weeks on, I am still getting inquiry calls, as I haven’t withdrawn the ads yet!
The experience was a lesson in what I feel could be crucial to deciding the future of journalism – paid versus free content. The success of any convergent media organisation will depend on the business models vis a vis these two factors.
Convergence media pioneer The New York Times last month confirmed it is selling 16 regional newspapers to enable it to continue its transformation to a digitally focussed multimedia platform.
The company, arguably a pioneer in media convergence, has gone in for a business model dependent on paid subscription. While it waits to see how well the strategy works, I can say one thing– ever since it went fully paid, I have substantially decreased the time I devoted to The New York Times website.

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