Traditional news publishers Herald, Newsday and Daily News recently decided to stop publishing full stories on their online platforms. Maybe the publishers believe this move will prevent online publications from stealing content from their sites since the information will now only be available in their physical publication. This is also to drive sales for physical papers according to a journalist on Twitter.
Is this wise?
The move to shun digital platforms and embrace hard copies seems to be an ill-thought out move for a number of reasons. Firstly, the newspapers are only available for a $1 so if online publications are making money from stealing content what would stop them from just buying one copy every morning and then steal content from there?
Zimbabweans in the diaspora will also be handicapped and put off from visiting these online publications. The worst part about the new publishing style is that the most topical stories are the ones that are exclusive to the street paper. Diasporans are usually following these publications online for these headlining stories but now they will no longer be able to access these.
Publishers, why not create apps to deliver news and then strike deal with network operators to introduce bundles to encourage monthly subscriptions? If that isn’t viable why not offer a subscription with payment through the mobile money platforms and then at least offer subscribers access to information if they are willing to pay for it.
Mother nature will be disappointed by the move away from digital back to print. In terms of environmental impact, digital platforms ensure a reduction of carbon emissions significantly. I know this may sound like a non-issue, but publishers that adopt these forward-looking solutions will stay ahead of the competition in the long term.
As a younger guy, I also think this move alienates the youth from the news. Personally, I prefer to consume all my news content online and if I wasn’t a writer I would not even consider buying a physical paper anytime soon. Young people value ease of use, so why lug around a paper when everything can be accessed remotely.
The publishing industry is under threat from the internet the world over. The solution is in adapting and re-engineering business models that work on the internet not retreating from the internet itself. Traditional publishers have had the problem of viewing digital as merely a good idea and not an important branch of their business. The future of their business actually.
We will see how this move will turn out but I think this is a step back and instead of innovating publishers are resorting to old and trusted methods that may not necessarily pay dividends in this ever-changing digital time.