There is not one unique business model that can be put in place to rescue declining print products, according to George Brock, Head of Journalism at City University.
In an exclusive interview to newspaper and interactive MA journalism students, Mr Brock advocated the innovation of multiple business models including multiple advertising schemes, pay walls, events, and subscription packages to generate revenue to keep print afloat.
“It’s too early to tell anything,” he said. “No one knows what is going to happen, we just have to wait and see where the ball lands on the roulette wheel.”
The Journalism Professor doubted that the pay-wall models alone, such as those at his previous employer, The Times, would be enough to sustain newspapers. He pointed out that free publications such as the Evening Standard only work if they have access to an efficient model of commuter distribution.
In other countries such as India, China and Brazil, Mr Brock noted that print publications are flourishing and will continue to grow. “The demand for news has not changed,” he insisted, but “those with a single-platform outlook will be at a serious disadvantage.”
He denied that news consumers were becoming apathetic and uncommitted, but insisted that newspapers were no longer the “dominant chunk” of their daily consumption as more people tuned into radio, TV and online journalism. “It’s free, it’s immediate… what’s not to like?”
“Journalism is disrupted very regularly and has done in the past.” Mr Brock explained. “The internet is another of these disruptions… but it’s going to be incredibly hard to actually kill print.”
Local newspapers face even more of a challenge and rolling news is a part of this challenge, forming “yet another pressure” on print, he said, touching on his experience with his first post-graduate job at Yorkshire Evening Press.
On the study of journalism, Mr Brock denied that undergraduate degrees have lost their value, and that City always aim, above all, to produce “thinking journalists” with multiple skills.
Unfortunately, he agreed with the notion that the high cost of further education meant that journalism was a “closed shop” for many.
“If I had a fairy godmother, I would ask for several hundreds of thousands of pounds for grants to provide to those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to come to City,” he said.
However, he remained determinedly optimistic about the industry overall, mirroring the ideas in his latest book, Out of Print, which insists that the practice of journalism can and will adapt to the changing environment.
“I’m a little ray of sunshine, me,” he joked.