Jane Wagner

2016: A Bundle of Challenges

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Google Cardboard pairs with NYT VR for a fully immersive VR experience.


As the news industry continues to evolve and reshape itself into more of an online entity, it is becoming increasingly difficult to entice readers to pay circulation fees and membership costs for their news. Many people expect all online media to be free to consume and read on any site, due to the fact that everything is just one click away.

This proves problematic for publishers when attempting to retain a solid reader base because their content is being diffused through countless platforms. This loss of control over how people are finding their ways to their content may deteriorate the loyalty and trust major outlets have built up over decades. Algorithms used by Google and Facebook, for example, filter content and display it to readers based on their friends and past online history.

The bottom line is that social platforms are destroying the presence publishers have worked long and hard to establish. Publishers are being shorted by these platforms and have very limited power in who is consuming their content. According to Mark Glaser of MediaShift, “The industry needs to work in a unified front, and reach out to strengthen bonds with the platforms and make sure they have a greater say in the partnerships.”

Instead of attempting to come up with their own agendas, publishers should be trying to collaborate with the platforms. Ultimately, it looks like the platforms are only going to grow in size and influence; it would be senseless for publishers to pull away from them if they ever want to expand their own influences.

In the future, publishers could possibly join forces and create membership bundles that provide access to different outlets and services for a flat rate. Outlets that produce entirely different content could benefit from teaming up and combining audiences. This would generate more views for each outlet with minimal expenses and overall work.

Another form of innovative subscription bundle comes from The New York Times. Its digital membership includes the daily paper on our smartphones, tablets and computers, as well as access to its entire archive collection since 1851. It has also launched two free mobile apps called NYT Now and NYT VR.

NYT Now is continuously updated with stories throughout the day, and posts daily morning and evening briefs. NYT VR (Virtual Reality) is the first news-oriented virtual reality app, and it’s incredible. This type of technology is still new to the news world and many organizations are still baffled at how they should be implementing it, or if they should even bother investing in it. In the future, however, I can see the Times bundling all its applications into one downloadable file, for either a subscription or a one-time fee.

The virtual reality technology is slowly but surely making its way into the mainstream media. How it will be permanently implemented and regularly used is still foggy. My guess is that it will be used for long features, and possibly coverage of natural disasters and war zones. There’s no better way to get people to pay attention to a cause than to immerse them in it.

As the industry continues to reshape itself, it is dire for organizations to adapt and to grow with the platforms their content is distributed through, rather than away from them. Seizing the opportunity to utilize new forms of technology will help keep readers interested and will boost numbers of return visitors. Failure to change with the times will inevitably lead to the actual death of journalism.

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