News is Dead. Long live Content.

11 Sep, '15

When news is published, it’s just the beginning of the conversation, not its end.

This is what “news” is today. It’s necessarily a live conversation that informs, educates and empowers people to make better decisions.

Whether you like it or not, printed newspapers, and magazines are dead. I believe that they’re uselessly clinging to life through rusty and leaky support machines. If publications want to get off their sick beds and actually thrive, they need to think of themselves more as very technology-centric content producers than restricted news curators. They need to produce relevant content and publish it across a plethora of platforms in a variety of formats to reach a fickle and sceptical audience. Failing to adopt this business model will ensure nothing but their slow and painful demise.

Currently, none of the newspapers in Bahrain operate under this necessary business model, which is quite surprising as well as it being disturbing, as the technology is readily available to allow them to move into the content business and away from the obsolete static news business models. I daresay that money isn’t the major detriment should they choose to strategically tread that path, the real hurdle might well be the required change in publishers’ mindsets, their management methodology and style in order to fully benefit from this new business model. There is no denying that there definitely is a long way for them to go, judging by their obtuse and difficult to use websites. Entities which are generally digitised copies of their printed publication at best, save for the ability to provide moderated reader comments.

I have to ask, though, is this situation due to general lethargy, a pragmatic response to the minuscule market they operate in, absence of vision or is it due to bureaucratic restrictions that prevent them from adopting the critical change in direction which is necessary to ensure their very survival?

I note that some monthly magazines’ websites do have some video content – very little of it mind you and in mediocre quality; however, I’m unsure whether this is has been officially sanctioned or is made available by taking the oft-used and successfully implemented concept of when caught, opting to ask for forgiveness rather than originally seeking the onerous permission required to provide such a service.

Video alone is not the answer, of course. For a modern publication to thrive, it really needs to change its business model from traditional print publishing to multimedia interactive content generation and curation, as stated previously. To make this happen, the chief requirement for success is for the organisation to intrinsically add leading edge technological capabilities – either through in-house or outsourced resources – to continuously inject innovation into their Internet assets, integrate new interactive technologies and ensure that their content management system is solid yet flexible enough to respond to the immediacy of news in all of its formats, including crowd-generated and -curated content. From my observation, there isn’t a single media entity that fits within this necessary framework so far in Bahrain.

According to the Local Media Outlets list in the Ministry of Information Affairs, there are currently 10 radio stations, 6 television channels, 7 daily newspapers, 15 weekly newspapers and magazines, 17 monthly magazines and 9 electronic newspapers and magazines (Last Modified: 28-09-2014 11:38:05). Apart from the fact that the quantity of media outlets is despicably low for a country with over 1.2 million people, I believe that they’re all doomed to failure. They’re all are stuck in the past.

Strategically, to attain sustainable success for this critical industry, basic changes must take place, changes which have proven to have positively contributed to the success of the industry elsewhere: the state needs to inculcate and protect freedoms of speech as defined by the UN Charter’s Article 19, remove or at least appreciably reduce restrictions on the ability to publish physical or virtual periodicals and allow them to fairly compete in an open market.

Should these conditions occur, I’m sure that the media industry in all its forms will thrive in Bahrain and create an industry that will be match and possibly exceed those already present in the region, and innovation in the media space will sore, bringing with it much needed economic benefits.

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