Can Readers, Newspapers and the Web Get Along?

Earlier this month, two Dallas newspapers begun an “experiment” which involves running the same review of the same concert for both papers instead of having two critics write about the concert providing two different perspectives. This experiment is an attempt on one level to cut costs and help newspapers get more bang for their buck when it come to paying the writer and filling newspaper page with content.

But critics have argued that this type of experiment will only further diminish the importance of balanced cultural criticism and result in a water-down, one-sided perspective that ultimately hurts the reader and kills arts criticism.

From a business perspective the experiment makes sense but what I really think is that newspapers should spend more time figuring out how to become relevant again in terms of how they present stories and most importantly how readers get and digest and process entertainment journalism.

Yes, newspapers need to figure out is what is really important to reader and fans. But readers and arts fans also need to take a look at themselves and ask if they even care about reading arts criticism and why it’s important.

As I’ve learned more about human behavior, I know that if people truly believe that their getting something by acting or paying money, they’ll also have a reason to read a story. They will pay money for it. And if newspapers want to make readers want to pay for the paper then they have to give readers something that resonates with them. Clearly the old model of the newspaper needs to be re-thought and evolve. What good does it do for newspapers to freak out and miss a chance to find new way to engage readers. Likewise, readers need to take full advantage of the situation. Newspapers have never been more attentive or open to suggestions.

Do fans want in-depth criticism?

Do newspapers really understand their readers?

Have readers let newspapers have a chance to figure them out?

Do newspapers see any value in taking the time to figure out readers and take chances with new mediums?

There are more questions but the important thing for newspapers and readers is not to stop asking questions. Both sides must figure out what they want the future to look like.

I love newspapers. I love both the nostalgia of the ink on my fingers and the crinkle of the paper. I also love the feeling of being informed, of being challenged, of reading a good news story in print that makes me think differently. But I also believe that print newspapers should serve a different role in my life other than to give my eyes a rest from the digital hypnotizing of the internet computer screen, which is really what it’s become lately. It kills me to type that because I studied media and journalism in college and I’ve always loved what a newspaper means and represents but the model and the significance needs to be rethought.

I also love the freedoms that the internet presents. I love the immediacy of the web and I’ll take the flaws and perks of web and citizen journalism, hoping the print newspapers will find a way out of the coffins they built when power of web journalism flexed its muscles with advent and evolution of the internet.

It will take a while to see if readers choose whether or not they want newspapers to provide them with daily news and quality journalistic reporting. But newspapers also have to ask themselves what role the arts and entertainment play in the lives of readers.

Because clearly blogs and the internet are delivering what readers want and in the why they want it. This doesn’t mean the newspapers have to go extinct. It just means that they have to reevaluate what entertainment journalism means to readers and how far readers are willing to go to get the best—and for the pink elephant in the room—whether or not readers feel that should pay for it.

I think part of this issue is based on quality and not necessarily on the medium or the accessibility of the internet.

This may seem like a gutsy move but newspapers should force readers to choose what they think is most important to read.

If readers don’t care that they’re only getting one perspective of a live concert performance and the fact that newspapers are double-dipping to save money, then newspapers have no reason to care either. It’s a nasty circle, and it does no good for critics to whine and moan amongst each other.

I’ve asked this question before. And I’ll ask it again.

Do you reader and fans really care to read two takes on the same concert? Does this serve a purpose in our lives?

As a music writer and journalist, I know the value of having two perspectives but again…

Do fans really care? Do fans see the value? And are they willing to pay for it?

If fans do then shouldn’t they pay for it? Fans shouldn’t expect to get multiple view points at a lower price and expect the newspaper to survive. Any reader or fan who does expect this doesn’t understand how a business works.

I’m putting the question back in the readers and fans court for 2009 and beyond.

Making art shouldn’t always be about making money, but ask any independent artist and they’ll tell that if you want what you believe in to continue then you have to support it with your time and resources.

Readers have to tell newspapers what they want and what they’re willing to pay for. Then maybe newspaper might be able to come up with something better than running the same review in two different papers.

If readers really care, it’s up to them to do something. Being passive reactive consumers will only give us what we’ve always gotten.

How about you? What are you going to do?

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