Innovation and the future of the book

Very belatedly, I’d like to write about the last two sessions of the module ‘Libraries and Publishing in an Information Society’ which I took earlier this year. In the penultimate session, we had two speakers – Matt Finch (@drmattfinch) and James Baker (@j_w_baker). And in our last session Alastair Horne (@pressfuturist) gave a presentation. The common theme was innovation in libraries and publishing.

Matt Finch, a writer and educator, wrote his PhD on the Warburg Institute, a research institute in London that focuses on the study of classical antiquity and the Renaissance, described by the New Yorker as the world’s weirdest library. This library apparently arranges its collection by the ‘law of the good neighbour’, which apparently means that each book should be able to ‘stage a conversation with its neighbour: ask a question, provide an answer’ (Steinberg, 2012).

Matt’s talk was entitled ‘Words and Pictures, Space and Play’ and focused on how comics, storytelling and theatre can be used in libraries. For example, in Parkes, New South Wales, public and school libraries hosted retailers and comics creators in Australia’s first rural comics festival. And in another public library, Matt staged a live-action zombie siege where participants got to decide the outcome of the story. This was in a library that only opens four hours for one day a week so the event was great for raising awareness of the library. Matt emphasised that no extra money was spent on the event either – they worked with what they had. Another community project in public libraries that Matt was involved in was the over-18s Dark Night: Library Burlesque festival, which featured comics, cinema screenings, cabaret evenings and more in partnership with Auckland’s public library service.

James Baker is a curator in the Digital Research team at the British Library. As such he has been involved with projects such as the Million Images from scanned books project. This involves releasing images from digitised books in the British Library’s collection onto Flickr – you can see their photo stream here. I particularly like the fancy letters you get, such as:

11140592193_cca9b30ebe_m   11145712576_af02111e9a_o

James also talked about text-mining tools for humanities research, citing Google’s Ngram viewer and the Infectious Texts project as examples. In his slides he showed us a graph created using the Ngram viewer of the use of the word ‘prison’ in books on Google Books. It showed sharp rises in the use of the words ‘prison discipline’ in the mid-nineteenth century and ‘prison camps’ in the mid-twentieth century, which could reflect societal preoccupations with prison reform at these times. James’s work on personal digital archives – i.e. laptops and phones belonging to writers deposited at the BL – was also fascinating to hear about.

Finally, in our last session, Alistair Horne, who works on innovation at Cambridge University Press, lead an interactive session on ebooks, publishing business models and more. We covered so much that I think perhaps the best would be for me to give you a flavour of the discussion through a few questions and some of the answers we came up with. Alistair’s blog is well worth checking out for further information.

Why are ebooks cheaper than print? This was a bit of a trick question as actually ebooks are sometimes more expensive than print. There is an expectation that ebooks should be cheaper and when Alistair probed us about this we realised it was because we assume that ebooks have less production costs. But actually it turns out that ebooks have similar production costs to print books – they’re just different. So instead of having to pay to store books in a warehouse, for example, you’re having to pay for space on a disk or in the cloud to store files.

What ebook subscription services currently exist? I’ve found three so far: Oyster, Scribd and Kindle Unlimited.

How do these ebook subscription services work financially? The customer pays a monthly subscription ($9.95 for Oyster, $8.99 for Scribd, £7.99 for Kindle Unlimited) in exchange for access to vast digital libraries (between 500,000 and 1 million books depending on the service). In the case of Kindle Unlimited you also get free access to Audible audiobooks. The range of books might sound huge but it’s important to remember that not all publishers are signed up to these services so it’s worth checking which publishers are available before you sign up.

Imagine that you are a) a publisher; b) an author; c) a reader. What do you want from a subscription model? What are your fears? As a publisher, I would have mixed feelings. On the one hand it might make my authors more discoverable and increase sales of their work. On the other hand, it might decrease print sales or ebook sales via other platforms and negotiating fair royalties with a giant like Amazon might not be easy. As an author, I would be interested in a new way of making my books available to readers. However, I might have similar concerns to publishers about royalties. I might make comparisons with Spotify, which offers a subscription model for music streaming. Spotify pays artists $0.001128 per play of one of their tracks, which means they have to get lots of plays to make it worthwhile (Guardian, 2015). I might also worry that less well-known authors would be harder to discover by users of subscription services as they’d be sharing shelf-space with thousands of other authors. As a reader, I’d want a subscription model to mean that I could access books on any device, offline as well as online. I’d also want as wide a range of content as possible, including front list titles from a range of publishers. Otherwise I might think that free elending via my local public library would be a better option.

References:

Michael P. Steinberg, 2012. The Law of the Good Neighbor. Common Knowledge 18.1: 128-133. Project MUSE. Web. 17 Jul. 2015. <https://0-muse.jhu.edu.wam.city.ac.uk/&gt;.

Guardian, 2015. How much money do musicians really make from Spotify, iTunes and YouTube? Web. 17 Jul. 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/apr/03/how-much-musicians-make-spotify-itunes-youtube

Links from Matt Finch’s talk: Matt’s blog | Tabletop superheroes game | Comics grid | Drawing Words and Writing Pictures

Links from James Baker’s talk: Slides | James’s website | The Mechanical Curator

Links from Alistair Horne’s talk: Internet of Things

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‘Libraries as Publishers’ and Encyclopaedias

In this lecture we learnt about the work of a research librarian and the potential for academic libraries to get involved in publishing. Diane Bell (@dianelouisebell), research librarian at City University, gave us a talk entitled ‘Developing digitally: researchers, social media and libraries as publishers’. We also explored the world of reference publishing, with a talk from Katharine Schopflin (@schopflin) on encyclopaedias.

Libraries as publishers

Diane Bell’s work encompasses three main things:

  • helping with resource discovery and publication
  • collection and service development
  • building partnerships between researchers and academic staff

Training researchers is a big part of this and I was interested to hear of the variety of topics she covers with them from library inductions to strategic literature searching to open access to using social media to create an online presence.

City University has an institutional repository, City Research Online, which provides open access to research by staff at the university. The library helps run this service. In other universities, libraries are also involved in helping to run university presses. For example, libraries at Stanford University and John Hopkins University help run the electronic publishing initiatives of these institutions – HighWire Press and Project MUSE respectively. And in 2015, UCL will launch UCL Press, which will make all publications available open access in digital form as well as commercially in print-on-demand and ebook formats. This will be a division of UCL’s Library Services although it’s not clear exactly what involvement librarians will have.

Libraries as publishers arguably makes a lot of sense in the academic context, whether it be managing an institutional repository or publishing electronic journals. For librarians’ skills in metadata and their understanding of the needs of both authors and end-users means they are well placed to support scholarly communications. Also, the serials crisis makes it imperative for librarians to have more influence in scholarly publishing and push open access. Whether or not the resources for these initiatives are available is another question. In the US, university presses have been helped by institutional/grant funds as well as by organisations like SPARC – the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (Harboe-Ree, 2007). However, the current financial climate doesn’t bode well for UK institutions.

Encyclopaedias

In the second half of our lecture, Katharine Schopflin (@schopflin), librarian and information manager, gave a talk on encyclopaedias. Having written her PhD on the subject, she was able to cover everything from the ancient versions known as summa to Wikipedia and also to explain the complex ways in which these vast works are put together.

We started with some definitions. Katharine described the characteristics of an encyclopaedia as:

  • accurate
  • unbiased
  • up-to-date
  • authoritative
  • covers its subject in sufficient and appropriate depth
  • succinctly written

In practice, it seems that most encyclopaedias display some of these characteristics but not all. Britannica, a commercially published online encyclopaedia, is written by researchers and so is likely to be accurate and authoritative. However, even though it’s updated daily, this probably isn’t true for every article. On the other hand, Wikipedia is edited by so many volunteers that individual articles are more likely to be kept up to date. And yet, these volunteers may not have the same expertise as Britannica authors to cover topics in sufficient depth. And as most Wikipedia editors belong to a narrow demographic it is debatable whether its articles present an unbiased view. Research cited by Heather Ford (2014) has shown that ‘Wikipedia’s representation of place is skewed towards the developed North’, that its ‘coverage of history suffers from an over-reliance on foreign government sources’ and that there are ‘significant gender-associated imbalances in its topic coverage’.

The work that goes into creating an encyclopaedia is considerable. Katharine defined it as follows:

  • market research
  • long-term projects
  • permanent editorial teams
  • continuous revision
  • electronic production
  • metadata

Apparently Oxford University Press has been particularly successful at using metadata. All its products, from journals to reference works to the Very Short Introduction series, have to provide the same, rich metadata, which can then be used to search OUP’s content in various ways from its search and discovery gateway, Oxford Index. With the reference publishing industry struggling to compete against free alternatives, perhaps such value-added tools are the future for this market.

For me, part of the interest of the lecture was also learning more about the first encyclopaedias, including Diderot and d’Alembert’s. Their ‘tree of knowledge’, which prefaced the encyclopaedia, shows Memory, Reason and Imagination at the top, showing perhaps a desire to promote the Enlightenment ideal of scientific knowledge:

673px-ENC_SYSTEME_FIGURE

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I like this image as it shows how encyclopaedias aim to give structure to human knowledge but are also biased in their world view. However much we try to be objective, when we write about the world we do so through a ‘filter bubble’ (Ford, 2014). This doesn’t mean that encyclopaedias aren’t useful but it does encourage us to be sceptical about claims that they represent a neutral point of view.

References:

Ford, Heather (2014). Wikipedia and breaking news: The promise of a global media platform and the threat of the filter bubble [online]. Available: http://cii.oii.ox.ac.uk/wikipedia-and-breaking-news-the-promise-of-a-global-media-platform-and-the-threat-of-the-filter-bubble/

Harboe-Ree, Cathrine (2007). Just Advanced Librarianship: The Role of Academic Libraries as Publishers. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 38:1, 15-25, DOI: http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080/00048623.2007.10721264

Digital innovation in trade publishing and libraries

Publishing is apparently the largest creative media sector in England and Scotland. Our guest lecturer for week 7 of LAPIS was Dan Franklin (@digitaldanhouse), Digital Publisher at Penguin Random House (PRH). Dan’s job, amongst other things, is to develop PRH’s digital products and services. Here is a list of some of the projects he is working on:

As Dan said, ‘it’s not just a book at the end of the process’. These days, authors could have their work turned into an app, an enhanced ebook (i.e. an ebook including multimedia and/or interactivity) or, in the case of Stephen Fry’s A Touch of Fry, a digital storytelling competition.

It’s clear that digital products and services are a growing interest for publishers. With ebook sales set to surpass physical book sales by 2017 (Statista/PWC), this is perhaps no surprise. However, the goal of Dan’s work doesn’t seem to be just to sell more books. For example, part of the interest of My Independent Bookshop is that it provides data about trending books and authors. And through Jellybooks, an e-reading platform, PRH can analyse things like length of reading sessions and approximately how far into a chapter readers abandon a book. It seems like a strange way to analyse a creative work but could perhaps help with editorial decisions.

So how are libraries meeting the increased demand for ebooks? With difficulty it seems as major publishers such as Macmillan, Penguin and Simon and Schuster will not make titles available to the UK library market (CILIP, 2014). As a result, in 2014, 80% of bestseller ebooks were unavailable to UK libraries (Leech, 2014). What’s more, elending is often restricted by conditions such as only lending to one reader at a time. And another difficulty for libraries is that they can’t lend books for use on the most popular ereader – Kindle.

I wish now that I had asked Dan Franklin about this as it seems to me that elending should be a better and more convenient option for library patrons. I know that the threat to publishers’ sales and the risk of piracy are real concerns for them but it’s not as if an ebook can’t be pirated anyway. And ultimately the library market for elending would only increase publishers’ income if they could find ways to ensure it didn’t impact too much on sales of ebooks. Libraries need to be be able to provide information to patrons in the format(s) they prefer and it’s clear that digital is increasingly the format of choice. Why deny library patrons access to ebooks? A question that I will have to come back to in my coursework for this module and also, perhaps, in later blog posts.

References:

CILIP (2014). Ebooks in public libraries – short briefing [PDF}. Available: http://www.cilip.org.uk/cilip/advocacy-campaigns-awards/advocacy-campaigns/ebooks/briefings-and-resources/ebooks-and-publi-0

Leech, Helen (2014). Amazon, we want to talk to you about Kindle Unlimited [online]. Available: http://www.cilip.org.uk/cilip/blog/amazon-we-want-talk-you-about-kindle-unlimited

Open Access

This week in #citylis #inm380 we looked at the Open Access movement. This post will attempt to cover most of what we discussed in broad outline. It is a complex subject so I can’t go into too much detail. Thanks to the session, I can point you to some more in-depth resources on the subject though (see Resources section). I’d particularly recommend Martin Eve’s monograph, Open Access and the Humanities, freely available online. The introductory chapter sets out the main issues clearly and thoroughly. We were lucky enough to have Martin Eve give a presentation on OA and the humanities in the second half of our session. Most of what I write will be a summary of what Ernesto and Martin presented to us.

Definition of OA

Coming away with a clear, succinct definition of OA was one of the most useful aspects of the session. Martin Eve’s definition in his book is as follows:

‘The term ‘open access’ refers to the removal of price and permission barriers to scholarly research.’

Essentially, this means that OA work is:

– free to read

– free to reuse

It is also worth emphasising that OA scholarly research is peer-reviewed just like non-OA research.

History of OA

Martin Eve distinguishes two contexts for the OA movement. Firstly, the fact that the high price of academic publications and increasing number of specialist publications have made it difficult for libraries to afford access to scholarly research. (This is sometimes referred to as the ‘serials crisis’.) Secondly, the open software movement (originating with Richard Stallman’s writings in the late 1980s) and free culture movement (alluded to in my earlier post on copyright) have bolstered the arguments for scholarly research to be freely reusable. Digital technologies and the Internet have also been a key catalyst for the OA movement by providing the means for publishing at virtually no cost.

Need for OA

As well as the economic and socio-cultural factors outlined above, there is the political argument that scholarly research which has been funded by the taxpayer should be freely available. Also, given that researchers are not dependent on revenue from their publications OA should not be detrimental to them financially. Indeed, scholars are not paid for submitting articles to journals. Nor are editors on a peer review board paid for their work. The main incentive for scholars to write or edit for a journal is to disseminate their work and thus increase their prestige.

Key concepts

Gold OA – the journal article or book is made available using the publisher’s PDFs (i.e. the edited, proofread and paginated version of the work) as soon as it is ready to go to print; the publisher’s costs are met by charging the author’s institution an Article Processing Charge (APC) or Book Processing Charge (BPC) which can be up to £2500, although Martin Eve’s book points out that at the time of his writing in 2014, the majority of gold venues listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals did not charge APCs and instead funded their operations through other means, covered in further detail in Chapter 2 of his book

Green OA – this route involves the author publishing a pre-print copy of their work (i.e. not necessarily proofread or paginated by the publisher) to an institutional or subject repository. The author must check that their publisher allows them to do this. And they must check whether the publisher requires them to wait a certain period of time before publishing their work open access. Green OA is the minimum for fulfilling HEFCE’s requirements for journal articles to be published OA from 2014.

Gratis – research that is free to read

Libre – research that is free to read and reuse (often licensed using Creative Commons licences); requisite for full OA status

Dissent

Martin Eve took us through some of the reasons academics, publishers, librarians and others disagree with OA. To sum up very briefly, academics object to OA because not all the most prestigious journals have OA policies. Publishers are worried about the impact on their revenues and the need to change their business models. And librarians, although mainly in favour of OA, are anxious about how their roles would have to change if the traditional library collection was replaced by OA publications and repositories.

OA and the Humanities

OA hasn’t made as much headway in the humanities as in the sciences, perhaps because budgets for funding Gold OA are lower. However, all the arguments for OA apply to the humanities as much as to the sciences. And, as Eve points out in his book, it would be particularly useful to be able to click through to check citations and follow up references in humanities research. He devotes a chapter of his book to exploring OA monographs – a medium that is particularly favoured in the humanities.

Libraries in all of this?

As noted above, librarians are questioning how they would fit into a new scholarly research landscape where dissemination via OA was the norm. The immediate question, to my mind, though should be how libraries go about facilitating compliance with new HEFCE OA mandates and reassuring academics concerned about these mandates. Martin Eve presented some really interesting solutions to the problem of high APCs, including an international library consortium, the Open Library of Humanities, that funds a gold open access journal and books platform without APCs. This kind of development is what librarians could and should be promoting. And of course working on the repositories and preservation technologies that make OA possible are another area that librarians can help with. Not to mention providing guidance on resources for specific subjects, citation standards etc. Just as they always have.

I’ll leave you with a video that Ernesto showed us and some references and further resources.

References:

Eve, M. P. (2014). Open Access and the Humanities [online]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available: http://ebooks.cambridge.org/chapter.jsf?bid=CBO9781316161012&cid=CBO9781316161012A015. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316161012.008

Resources:

Suber, P. (2014). Open Access [online]. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Available: https://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/titles/content/9780262517638_Open_Access_PDF_Version.pdf

Finch Report – report commissioned by UK government into open access

QMUL website’s open access pages – useful introductory info

Stuart Lawson’s datasets on figshare (including journal subscription costs – FOIs to universities)

SHERPA/RoMEO – publisher policies on OA

Directory of Open Access Journals

Stephen Curry’s blog – OA-related posts by science academic, includes review of Martin Eve’s book

Beall’s list – list of predatory publishers, including OA publishers

Scholarly Publishing Part 1 – Learned Societies, ALPSP and future gazing

This week we looked at scholarly publishing. We had a guest lecture from Suzanne Kavanagh (@sashers), Director of Marketing and Member Services at the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (@ALPSP).

The field of scholarly publishing seems to encompass four main types of publisher:

– commercial (e.g. Elsevier, Springer, Wiley and Taylor & Francis – known as the ‘Big Four’)

– university presses

– learned societies

– open access journals

(I’m not sure to what extent the last three are for-profit but I got the impression from the ALPSP lecture that most are non-profit.)

There is some overlap between these four types of scholarly publisher. For example, learned societies sometimes partner with commercial publishers to produce their publications. And some universities publish open access journals, for example Berkeley Electronic Press. I found it interesting on Berkeley Electronic Press’s About page that they changed from charging subscriptions to only publishing open access in 2011. To quote their blurb, ‘we believe the future of scholarly publishing lies in the hands of libraries and scholars to provide open access and effective research dissemination’.

Suzanne Kavanagh’s talk gave us a useful overview of what learned societies are and what the future holds for scholarly publishing. Learned societies were the first scholarly publishers and the first scientific journal published in English in 1665 was the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Suzanne gave the example of the Royal Society of Chemistry as a learned society still going strong today. Amongst other things, it provides its members with the latest news and research (including through subscription-based journals) and networking and funding opportunities. It also promotes chemistry in schools and the wider community.

To get the perspective of ALPSP members on the future of scholarly publishing, we watched a video from the ALPSP 2014 conference.

(The ALPSP Youtube channel is definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in scholarly publishing.)

Suzanne discussed many of the things that she thinks will affect the future of scholarly publishing, focusing on four key areas: political, economic, sociocultural and technological factors. Key aspects that seem to have had or will probably have an impact include changes in HEI (particularly funding and research policies), copyright legislation, the open access movement, the global recession, changes in scholarly communications, mobile technology, discovery and search trends.

I was particularly interested to hear about how EU directives can have a significant impact on scholarly publishers. For example, the harmonisation of copyright law across the EU has driven many policy changes. And the recent changes to VAT legislation whereby if you are selling digital services direct to a consumer you have to pay the VAT in the countries in which those services are consumed have had a similar impact.

Reference:

Rolnik, Z., P. Binfield and T. Graves, 2008. Publishing 101: The Basics of Academic Publishing. The Serials Librarian, 54 (1/2). doi:10.1080/03615260801973414

Copyright

This week we learnt about the origins of the book trade and intellectual property. We also looked at the impact of the internet on creativity and whether or not copyright law is fit for purpose in the digital age. The following is a reworking of some of the notes we were given and some additional thoughts.

I found it interesting that book selling and publishing were usually done by the same business until the 18th century. Then printing, publishing and book selling became separate businesses. Publishing companies such as Penguin, Macmillan, Gollancz and others became household names in the UK as books became increasingly affordable (partly due to Penguin’s publication of inexpensive paperbacks in the 1930s) and some high profile cases such as Penguin’s publication of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’. And now we have the centralisation of publishing with a few huge companies – Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Elsevier etc – dominating the market.

It was also interesting to learn about William Hogarth (1697-1764) who was one of the earliest proponents of intellectual property after his prints were widely pirated. The 1734 Engravers’ Copyright Act, which he helped to bring about, allowed engravers the exclusive right to exploit their work commercially.

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Print from The Harlot’s Progress by Hogarth, source: Ashley van Haeften, Flickr

The UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act dates from 1988. It means that if you register your work with the Intellectual Property Office you can reserve all rights in the copying of that work. Copyright law aims to give creators an incentive to work and also to protect their moral rights not to have their reputation damaged by unauthorised copying, alteration or misattribution of their work.

And yet in the digital age we are having to rethink copyright law. It is now so much easier to be a creator – to write blogs, make home movies, record music… And having to ask permission for every quote, sample or extract from another work is time consuming and potentially expensive. As Lessig argues in ‘Free Culture’, copyright feels like just another way that big corporations are staying rich at the expense of consumers and creators. In the case of academic research, whose right is it anyway to make money out of work that has been funded by the taxpayer? And can we really continue to copyright ‘works of the mind’ when the whole concept of an original idea is problematic in the first place?

Creative Commons Licences are a potential solution to the inflexible nature of copyright law. There are six different licences, all allowing consumers to share content but with varying restrictions. The most permissive only requires you to credit the creator. The most restrictive requires you not to make derivative works or to exploit the work commercially.

Copyright law is also trying to keep up with the times. In 2011 the Hargreaves review of IP and growth made a number of recommendations which resulted in some changes to the law in 2014. For example, it is now permissible to copy work for the purposes of parody.

LAPIS week 3

This week saw us looking at the notion of authorship. Our suggested reading included an essay by Foucault entitled ‘What is an author?’ and a piece by Lovecraft on amateur journalism. In the second half of the lecture we discussed the future of the news media. Eliza Anyangwe (@elizatalks), a freelance editor who has worked for the Guardian Professional Networks, gave a talk entitled ‘Digital journalism: golden age or stone age?’.

I found the Foucault article difficult but thought-provoking. He questions the notion of authorship by, for example, asking does it really matter what the author was trying to say? Surely works can have more than one meaning? He also seems to question the notion of a literary ‘work’, preferring the term ‘discourses’. For, as he points out, it’s hard to know when to draw the line when talking about an author’s works. Should drafts and marginalia count? What about a shopping list? He also seems to argue for a broader understanding of authorship, encouraging us to look at how a discourse is taken up and modified in society rather than just how it was founded:

‘Perhaps it is time to study discourses not only in terms of their expressive value or formal transformations but according to their modes of existence. The modes of circulation, valorization, attribution, and appropriation of discourses vary with each culture and are modified within each.’

Foucault also questions the notion of originality. He sees the author more as a way of channeling ideas (‘the principle of thrift in the proliferation of meaning’) rather than an originator of new ideas. I thought this was interesting given that we so often talk of writers as ‘original’. It also perhaps undermines the idea of copyright – ‘the exclusive right to reproduce, publish, and sell the matter and form of a literary or artistic work’.

Ernesto showed us this video from the Open University which suggests other ways in which we can question the idea of the author:

In the second half of the lecture, Eliza Anyangwe gave a fascinating insight into the new environment in which journalists are operating. How can the Guardian compete with Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post? These sites are covering news stories in ways which perhaps engage readers more than conventional news sites. And recently a 6,200 word article on Buzzfeed held readers’ attention for an average of 25 minutes, showing that digital still has room for in-depth articles.

And how can media companies tap into the success of mobile and social? Facebook etc can drive traffic to news sites even more than search. And yet Facebook retains control over which news stories reach people by keeping their algorithms secret. Should media companies engage with a company that has such power over how news is consumed? This podcast explores this dilemma and others that have faced journalists over the last year.

And of course there is the question of business models. How can journalism be sustainable in an age of falling subscriptions and ad revenue? Eliza compared the business models of the Times online (paid) and Guardian, Telegraph and Independent online (free). Obviously there is a lot to be said for the fact that the Guardian and others are keeping their online content free. However, to be able to do this they must rely on their content being underwritten by sponsors or supported by ad revenue. Some of the content for the Guardian Professional Networks’ blogs is sponsored but remain editorially independent. However, a senior writer at the Daily Telegraph has just resigned over the newspaper’s alleged covering up of the HSBC tax scandal because of fear of losing ad revenue.

One big advantage of digital journalism is that more people than ever before have access to news and also the tools to make the news. ‘Open journalism’ is thus helping to make the media more diverse and promote discussion via things like comments on news sites (although Eliza pointed out that Reuters recently closed comments on their site, supposedly because discussion is moving to social media). And yet, as someone pointed out in the lecture, we are living through the ‘wild west’ of digital journalism in that the environment is still fairly deregulated. How safe is it to create identities for ourselves online? And how do we deal with the new trend for working for free? Bloggers can be exploited by advertising companies who pay them nowhere near what the advertising on their site is worth. And is promotion by a brand like the Guardian sufficient payment for contributing to their blogs? Also, Twitter etc are not necessarily making the media more diverse if criteria for success such as presentability and networks still count as much as they ever did.

Finally, it was interesting to hear how the Guardian Professional Networks commission content. A writer’s expertise counts but so does their social media presence and whether they can write in a way that fits Guardian copy. There is advice on the GPN’s website for how to write a story for them and copy is no doubt further honed by Guardian editors before being posted to the site. So perhaps Lovecraft was right when he said that amateur journalism must be guided by ‘some centralised authority capable of exerting a kindly, reliable, and more or less invisible guidance in matters aesthetic and artistic’.

I’m not sure how to tie all these thoughts together into a conclusion so will leave you with some links and references to follow up if you’re interested.

Eyes Wide Shut: Will the Future of Journalism Mean we are Better Informed?

The Year of Engagement: Looking Back at 2014

Why Social Engagement Matters

Last Call: The End of the Printed Newspaper

How the Smartphone Ushered In a Golden Age of Journalism

What is an @uthor?

Foucault, M. (1969). What is an author? In: Faubion, ed. (1998) ‘Aesthetics, Method and Epistemology: Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984’. New York, New York Press.

Lovecraft, H. P., Amateur Journalism: Its Possible Needs and Betterment. In: Derleth, ed. (1966) ‘The Dark Brotherhood and Other Pieces by H.P. Lovecraft and Divers Hands’. Wisconsin, Arkham House Publishers.