Stephen Foley: Buried in a local paper: a glimpse of the future of journalism - Business Comment - Business - The Independent

Stephen Foley: Buried in a local paper: a glimpse of the future of journalism

US Outlook: There was a new byline on the business pages of the Daily Tribune in Michigan last Sunday. It was a little byline on a humdrum story ("Maytag recalling 1.7 million dishwashers"), buried deep inside a small local paper from the rust belt of the US. But it looked to me like a vision of the future of newspapers.

The story about dishwashers was by Mitch Lipka, a journalist for the business website, owned by AOL, where it had appeared earlier in the week. Its journey from the web to the inky hands of the Tribune's readers went via a "news exchange" set up by a tech company called Publish2. AOL put its free content up on the exchange, the business editors of the Tribune came in search of material that might interest their readers, and bingo.

Is this kind of exchange the key to reshaping the newspaper industry and putting it on a sounder footing? I think so. We are operating now in a world where the very best specialist coverage on any topic is available at the click of a mouse. Serious news consumers in the US, looking for serious information on serious topics, might flit between Politico for the goings-on on Capitol Hill and The Wall Street Journal for financial news and ESPN for sport. Print newspapers and their associated websites that try to be all things to all men could start to look as anachronistic as the Yahoo homepage.

Something big has to give. Surveying the landscape this week, the credit rating agency Moody's declared that the outlook for US newspaper company debt was stable this year, but it wasn't so sure that it could last. Advertising revenues will be down "only" 5-10 per cent this year, thanks to strong economic growth, but are likely to deteriorate faster in 2011.

The most common approach to newspaper management here appears to be the "trim and hope" approach, matching advertising and circulation declines with newsroom lay-offs and keeping one's fingers crossed that things will stabilise. News exchanges could enable a much more radical approach, a "focus and grow" approach.

The best local papers already focus their resources on the things that only they can do, community reporting and vital local investigations. For the rest, they take Associated Press content for many of their national and international stories and features (but they grumble about the fees charged by the AP, which is why Publish2 is setting itself up as a rival where they can find cheaper or free content).

News exchanges could provide a dramatic new way for the bigger, regional dailies to cut costs and redirect resources at exclusive content. This cadre of publication includes storied names such as the Chicago Tribune or the LA Times, who currently pride themselves on their "full-service" offerings for readers. They may have scaled back foreign bureaus in the face of the reality of declining revenues, but a truly radical vision of the future would see them also cut a lot of their other specialist coverage and replace it with content sourced from outside the newsroom. How many newspapers need a deep bench of technology writers, if content from TechCrunch and other tech bloggers or freelancers might be available for repackaging at much lower cost?

Content sharing agreements are emerging across the US on an ad hoc basis, but I like the model of a "news exchange" for a couple of reasons. First is the obvious benefit to the content providers. By hawking their wares to one and all via Publish2, TechCrunch, the Huffington Post Investigative Fund, AOL's DailyFinance et al save the hassle of negotiating myriad distribution deals. I also think that an exchange might reveal some home truths that might otherwise take a long time to dawn, most notably that there are simply too many journalists writing slightly different versions of the same few stories. An exchange model will reveal what is truly valuable in journalism: educated writing, exclusive investigations, and stories that have a deep appeal to a distinct community – and set a price for it.

Suggested Topics
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise

Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree

Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Consultant - Soho - IT, Pharma, Public Sector

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

Sales Executive

£20 - 24k (Uncapped Commission - £35k Year 1 OTE): Guru Careers: We are seekin...

Payroll & Accounts Assistant

£20 - 24k + Benefits: Guru Careers: This is a great opportunity for an enthusi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £280 - £320 p/d - 6 months

£280 - £320 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week