13 August 2009

Print media still survives

Newspapers around the world have been collapsing, mainly due to the advertising boom on the internet. Not only do advertsisers choose online adverstising over print, but the crisis has been exacerbated by the global credit crunch. But "print media is not going away in South Africa just yet" said Vin Crosbie, media consultant and lecturer at Syracuse University in the USA.

The way that the media works has been revolutionised by the internet and newspapers are sourcing news content and opinions from their readers. Newspapers are also presenting the news online, often as it happens, audibly, visually and interactively. But merely publishing an online version of the story published in the newspaper is not good enough and Crosbie said that newspapers should harness technology to improve print and online editions. "When the Grocott's print edition has a story about crime, the online edition could have a crime map, constantly updated using data from the police and Hi-Tec," he suggested.

Crosbie visited South Africa to conduct a workshop at Rhodes University's Sol Plaatje Institute which was attended by media professionals from various publications around the country, including Media24, The Big Issue and Muslim Views. Regarded as one of the most outspoken critics of the newspaper industry's response to the digital media revolution, Crosbie argued that countries like South Africa can learn from the mistakes of others.

With phones now increasingly being used to access the internet, and media institutions developing content specifically for cellphones, Crosbie expects it to be the best means of internet access for most South Africans. Crosbie said that the rapid improvement in technology means that millions of South Africans will soon be able to access the internet via their cellphones. People will have cheap, fast access to news and information online, and will be able to use their phones to contribute information and post their opinions.

Grocott's Mail is involved in citizen journalism projects with the journalism department at Rhodes, which has learners training to use their mobile phones to report news. While some journalists feel threatened by citizen journalism, Crosbie said that technological advancements actually make this a great time for journalism. He trains journalism students to investigate ways of harnessing the power of new technologies.

"Imagine getting your own personalised copy of Grocott's Mail", he said. "If there is a story about new property taxes, your copy would include a calculation specific to you and your neighbour's paper would be different." Crosbie reckons that Grocott's could soon be at the forefront of exciting developments in the newspaper world.

New printing machines will make it possible to print different versions of the same edition of a newspaper. Publications like this are currently available online, but Grocott's subscribers could soon choose to have articles in a range of languages, or to have more news from certain areas in Grahamstown said Crosbie. "The current printing machines use these big plates which means the editor has to decide what stories will appeal to the most people, but with this technology each reader's paper can be customised to suit his preferences."

A version of this article first appeared in Grocott's Mail: http://www.grocotts.co.za/content/print-media-still-survives-20-08-2009

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