Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Does The Daily Beast Show the Way for News Media's Future?
Woke up ridiculously early today and found trying to get back to sleep through listening to the World Service was frustrated by the interview with Tina Brown which was just too interesting for allow me to drift back off. Following her editorship of The Tatler, aged only 25, and later reign at Vanity Fair, not to mention her marriage to Harold Evans, the famous former editor of The Times and Sunday Times, she has long been seen as a major luminary of the print press as well as a leading socialite in her adopted home of the USA. At all her press appointments she established a record as an obsessive, innovative miracle worker.
Well, up to a point. Her Talk Magazine venture was initially successful but signally failed to survive the advertising recession. So the queen of the print press decided to join the enemy by setting up The Daily Beast, an online 'news aggregator' mixing celebrity news with a blend of other news stories. Take a look at it, if you haven't seen it yet and, I bet like me, you are impressed.
She was frank about the fact that she lacks the scores of staff of a major conventional title but insisted her tiny staff, which includes an investigative reporter-poached from a fading 'old' print paper- delivers the goods. Is it yet a substitute for a 'real' i.e. 'old' newspaper? Like the Huffington Post, not quite yet. But both of them are quite clearly getting there. Brown observed that 'The old model is broken but the new one is not yet properly up and running.' So such online publications occupy a hiatus during which reliable income flows are sought.
Advertising provides the main income source for most of the megablogs but this is not sufficient to finance the sort of overseas staff and investigative teams run even by the bigger tabloids. Where such income will come from is not yet clear but Rupert Murdoch's plans to charge for online news might provide a possible, (though perhaps regrettable) solution. Will we be prepared to subscribe to such publications? At the moment such sources are free of charge so a cultural shift will be necessary, but, like it or not, those of us who are addicted to news and current affairs may be inching towards such a reformulation.