Why game reviewers are a good example for the death of print journalism
Woah – look at all the radical things we can do on the web! Read articles, write articles, leek articles, masturbate to articles – probably. After the breakthrough of the internet, social media, and later citizen journalism; it’s become old hat to hear the phrase “the death of print”. However, much like how Trump’s orange hue, the solution to this problem has yet to be found.
Newspapers and their organisations have collectively reduced 35% of their newsrooms over the past five years. That’s professional journalists left to be freelance – or worse – writing TripAdvisor reviews for a living. All because no one buys the humble newspaper like they used to. 45% less than they used to (from 2005).
The main cause of this is simple: why would you pay for a boring newspaper, when online is free?
The solution to save journalism has yet to be completely solved, or implemented; as news organisations persistently try. However, next time you tell a baby-boomer that “newspapers are dud, dude”, or it’s all on Facebook now – the content you’re referencing is from newspaper newsrooms and journalists. The death of print isn’t the problem. The problem is that this death is just the early indicator of organisations not having enough money to pay journalists.
To use something more relatable, this is the exact problem Youtubers or game reviewers are currently facing also. Providing content costs money – so how do you continue?
What will save journalism?
Both Youtubers, gamers, and print organisations have devised four solutions to this funding problem. Firstly, paywalls. Paywalls are the subscription services or payments to view articles. In 2010, New York Times began implementing this with much success. However, much like last place in a popularity contest, The Australian’s paywall sunk readership dramatically.
The most effective use of paywalls can be seen by the Financial Review and game-based media Patreon, whom only allows subscribers to view content. In short, these work because they’re audience is a niche market – and in the case of the Financial Review, an affluent one.
However, most people wouldn’t subscribe to all news, as public service and social media seem to freely handle this.
Micro-payments also run from this idea, where by the reader pays for the single article they want to read – rather than a full subscription. However, this has undergone criticism for “want” of paying, as well as face the question: do readers get a refund if the article wasn’t worth that 20 cents?
Thus the third solution is native advertising, or sponsorship. Popularly on clickbait sites such as Buzzfeed, but also hidden throughout news organisations as “incentives to publish product”, articles and stories are covered by a journalist purely on that the product has paid them for it. In a heavily sold environment that is social media, audiences are usually aware of when they’re being sold something. Buzzfeed even publicises the “sponsored” martial in its byline.
Looking at Youtube, any Jontron or Friendlyjordies viewer would have noticed their irregular videos as including more paid content than there are jokes. Again, this method doesn’t work for news – because unless every car manufacturer pays journalists to include their brand, are journalists not going to cover a car chase? News becomes Kochie selling his Nutri-bullet on an Ab-Circle Pro whilst wearing BB cream surpreme – and no one wants that.
Lastly comes a less severe option: crowdfunding. This again can be best exemplified by reviewer Jontron or even a game such as Undertale – as Kickstarter and Crowdfund.com websites aim to support the quality content viewers seem to enjoy. In exchange, the reader will receive the content; as well as the occasional mug or t-shirt. In news, this method of funding has been experimented, with Kickstarters developed to fund sporting-event coverage, environmental, and international stories. However, what happens if there wasn’t enough crowdfunding to pay for journalists to cover the Iraq war – or the cyclone headed towards your home? Somehow, we haven’t reached the “snooze you lose” approach to journalism yet.
So, how does Polygon, Jontron, Friendlyjordies – or any of your favourite free creators – keep giving you content, without you having to give back? Newspapers really want to know.
Research credit: Caroline McKinnon and Richard Murray