Thursday, 15 March 2012

Reflection on the Times

Reflection of the talk from the Times' Jon Hill

The talk which Jon Hill presented us with yesterday (14/03), has on hindsight given me food for thought. He talked about the application which the Times has for the iPad and iPhone where users have to pay a subscription to be able to read their online content, similar to purchasing the printed newspaper. This is an idea Rupert Murdoch had and in a sense it does make logical business sense, why charge to purchase a printed newspaper version when you could in theory read the exact same content for free online?

It made me think that no other news outlet with a web presence charges for such a service, for example the BBC or Google or the Daily Mail amongst others, so how do they manage to still get daily hits? Is it that the Times is such an integral part of the British heritage that people simple cannot do without their daily fix? In a presentation the company made to Murdoch to secure the next years funding they showed data proving that charging for their online version still has more hits per day than the Independent had for their printed copy and last year (2010) their application was more popular than Angry Birds. So on reflection does it matter that they charge a subscription fee when they are quite clearly one of the leading suppliers in the market? In such dismal economic times though will these figures drop as the population begin to realise that they can read their news for free on other sites?

Also, it made me think that newspapers really are a dying trend. I know from first hand experience that my father only buys a newspaper when he is on holiday and actually has the time to sit down with a cup of tea and digest the news he has paid for properly, thus making more financial sense to him than purchasing it everyday and not having the time to sit and digest it pleasantly. Though my grandfather purchases a newspaper daily and religiously (with the exception of Sundays, because they charge too much for supplements and advertisements, buts that’s going on another tangent entirely). If they are a dying trend, then are they going to become more expensive as less people part take in the purchasing of British heritage? After all a newspaper such as the Times is indeed just that, part of the British make-up. If they become more expensive then they will become an exclusive institution. Of course the likes of the Times is marketed at the middle classes and above already but the exclusivity that it poses could potential only widen the gap between the social classes. Additionally, if it becomes so expensive or the manufacturer to produce then the only way of it being a sustainable source would be to make it a weekly or even monthly publication instead of daily as we see it at the moment. Agreed, we do se the news on television and hear of it on the radio, so I hear you say where is the need for the printed word? Well institutions such as the Times have specialists in subject areas to break the information down for us into more manageable chunks with the added bonus of lawyers and doctors on hand for authoritative information and of course they can utilise data to make sense of scenarios through diagrams and graphics.

Finally, if newspapers, alongside other printed forms such as books are going online to try and keep up with the pace of an ever evolving technological world, then surely I must need to have a basic knowledge of how all this works if I am to survive in producing art work that will fit these needs too. This is the bit that scares me most as I have no experience or knowledge of coding or how computers work past the basic Microsoft and adobe packages. Will I need to start some courses or purchase some teach-yourself guides? I’m sure that the visit to London next week will shine some more light on these issues as I have a tour of the Times’ offices and a portfolio visit at the Guardian too. Until then though, I’ll hope and pray that whatever will eventually be expected of me, I can handle it!

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