In My Opinion: Graeme Cleland: It’s the delivery, stupid

MEDIA industry types listened with interest as the world’s most powerful media magnate, Rupert Murdoch, recently outlined his plans to squeeze revenue from his outlets’ online content.

However, his proposals were not particularly revelatory and his rhetoric, from a man who has ruled a vast media empire for such a long time, not very convincing either.

Among various responses, Andrew Collier wrote a good piece on allmediascotland.com about the challenges facing media outlets as they tried to make internet publishing pay.

He makes good points about the internet having “spawned a culture where people expect to read quality writing for nothing”, and the need for a radical new advertising model that generates cash for those producing online content.

However, what if it’s not a new advertising model that is required, but rather a new delivery model?

Take the music industry as an example.

The actual business of making music has not changed that much over the past 50 years, but the method of delivery to the consumer has changed beyond all recognition.

That is down to the development of new technology, with the transition from vinyl to cassette to Compact Disc and now MP3, etc.

When digital downloading of music first began to catch on, the record companies were horrified.

They saw a dangerous threat to their comfortable retail system based on the sale of CDs.

However, once they realised the trend for downloading could not be stopped they looked at ways to ‘join the club’ and exploit it for themselves.

Now almost all major artists and record labels offer their product digitally from the off and the pop charts are now based on download figures rather than CD sales; and no-one is complaining.

The music industry now understands that there is potentially now a much more diverse and profitable method of delivering their product to the consumer.

That is where media outlets need to change their thinking and follow a similar path.

We all know there are many print and digital media organisations producing great content that people want to read. That is evidenced by the high number of visitors to their websites.

However, is a website really the form that the modern consumer of news wants to engage with?

Could it be that a digital edition of a newspaper or magazine downloaded to a mobile phone, which is then available to browse offline, would be far more convenient?

Subscription-style download services could be offered through the outlet’s own website or affiliates such as iTunes, and it would be surprising if consumers would baulk at paying the same price for original, quality content as a single music track or traditional newspaper.

With a few hundred thousand such daily download fees and advertising incorporated into such a digital edition, newspapers might just be able to make the numbers stack up again in this brave, new digital world.

Remember, you heard it here first.

Graeme Cleland is a former daily newspaper journalist, with The Courier and The Evening Telegraph. He is now working as a director of public relations firm, The Inside Line. Based in Glasgow he works with clients throughout the UK in the automotive, logistics and motorsport sectors.