Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of the Guardian has been in the news today discussing, yes, paywalls. Quoted at length but full article here:
The Guardian editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has delivered a riposte to Rupert Murdoch’s campaign to introduce paywalls to newspaper websites, claiming that it could lead the industry to a “sleepwalk into oblivion”.
“If we turn our back on all this and at the same time conclude that there is nothing to learn from it then, never mind business models, we could be sleepwalking into oblivion.
“If you erect a universal pay wall around your content then it follows you are turning away from a world of openly shared content. Again, there may be sound business reasons for doing this, but editorially it is about the most fundamental statement anyone could make about how newspapers see themselves in relation to the newly-shaped world.”
The Guardian editor told an audience of academics and journalists in London that it is more important than ever to focus on journalism: “If you think about journalism, not business models, you can become rather excited about the future. If you only think about business models you can scare yourself into total paralysis.”
Now contrast with this article, also from the Guardian:
Guardian News & Media managing director Brooks told staff in a memo posted on the company intranet yesterday that the current rate of losses at GNM, which publishes the two national newspapers and the guardian.co.uk website network, which includes MediaGuardian.co.uk, was “unsustainable”.
Brooks added that GNM was losing £100,000 a day, a rate that its parent company, Guardian Media Group ”cannot afford”.
In July Guardian Media Group has posted a pre-tax loss of £89.8m for the year to 29 March, with GNM reporting an operating loss of £36.8m.
I yield to no man in my conviction that the Guardian and guardian.co.uk are absolute first-rate media organs … but do you really want business advice from the organisation that’s losing £100,000 a day (yes! every single day!)? The truth is these days you can’t and shouldn’t keep journalism and business models in distinct silos, never letting them communicate with one another. That’s how things used to be done, back when newspapers were making truckloads of money. It’s all part of the same conversation, and so it should be. (A good start would be by guardian.co.uk moderators not deleting my entirely inoffensive comments on their site, I assume because I gently poked fun at Rusbridger …)
Here’s to more, and better, thinking about and discussion of business models, and less sleepwalking to oblivion, or wherever the Guardian is heading.