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We live and work in exciting times - revolutionary times. Technology continues to recast the media industry.

The extraordinary advance of affordable personal digital technology and the stellar rise of social networks are both distrupting and transforming the media market making this a unique moment to be involved in the convergence sectors we focus on.

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Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Newspapers - time to co-operate?

If magazine publishers can get together and cooperate why can't newspapers?

At this infection point it has to make sense for newspaper publishers to work collaboratively on setting standard models for content charging, digital access and a united front in debate with content aggregators.

Doesn't it?

In the magazine world the greatest names in publishing Hearst, Time Inc, Conde Nast and Meredith will next week launch an independent digital consortium supported by News Corp, to develop a digital news stand. Last week Hearst with support from others launched "Skiff", a standard technology platform and planned electronic reader, promising to give publishers more control of their digital fortunes.

"For the first time the publishing business are way ahead of the trend" says Mark Ford, Time's publisher.

There are so many great minds beavering away inside newspapers trying to figure out the way forward - alone and isolated from the rest of the industry. Surely its time for the newspapers greatest names to swallow their pride and cooperate? To work on the problems and opportunities together. To develop and execute a cohesive plan to together. To emerge from this crisis stronger and ready for the digital era.

Alas it won't happen. There will continue to be a collectively hand wringing and tub thumping at newspapers industry get togethers like the recent World Newspaper Congress in Hyderabad, but self interest will keep the titles and their businesses apart. And the industry will suffer longer than it needs to as a result. The frustrating thing is that standards will emerge eventually they always do, but not for awhile longer.

Ironically I think the industry might coerce (rather than cooperate) around an 'no charge' for content position. There will be publishers that will choose not to rally to Murdoch 'pay walls' battle cry choosing to wait it out and see whether they benefit from a customer upswing away from paid sites to their free sites. I wonder whether this is driven by a desire to ‘get Murdoch’ or a genuine strategic position. Additionally, I foresee publishers coalescing around the aggregators (especially Google and Yahoo) with some like Murdoch choosing to fight and others like Germany's Axel Springer choosing to work together to create a “one-click marketplace solution” for their online content.

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