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商业 - 传媒与文化

报业媒体的新生机

Dan Mitchell 2012年03月14日

皮尤研究中心发布的一份研究报告显示,报纸苦苦挣扎于抵制“惯性”,阻碍了其向网络化转型的进程。而通往成功的关键在哪里?答案是改变文化。

    上周,《尤金纪事卫报》(Eugene Register-Guard)在其网站上发表了一篇关于当地制图师大卫•艾莫斯的报道。文章讲述的是艾莫斯一度债台高筑,直到网络杂志《Slate》在1月份发文,大加赞扬他的绘图才能。现在,他的地图卖疯了,部分原因是《Slate》杂志给出了他网站的链接——艾莫斯地理(Imus Geographics)。然而,《尤金纪事卫报》自己并没有提供艾莫斯网站的链接,只是在文章末尾添上了《Slate》杂志和其他媒体相关报道的链接,而且这些也差不多是后来才加上去的东西。这个案例非常耐人寻味。

    皮尤研究中心卓越新闻项目(Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism)发布的一份最新研究报告称,转战网络之后获得成功的报纸之所以寥若星辰,部分原因在于它们的“文化惯性(Cultural inertia)”。提供报道对象的网站链接这类行为看似小事,但也是这种惯性的一种体现。总的问题是,许多报纸对待互联网的态度与《尤金纪事卫报》处理链接的方式如出一辙——完全是马后炮。我在这里并非单挑小小的《尤金纪事卫报》说事。作为世界上最好的报纸网站之一,《纽约时报》(The New York Times)的网站依然把某些短语链接到它自己的“专题页面”,这有时让习惯于点击链接去阅读另一篇文章或相关短语确切含义的读者无所适从。很多时候,人们在这种情况下希望看到的并不是什么专题页。

    然而,文化惯性仅仅只是其中一个问题。经济因素是报纸和其他“老媒体”持续萎缩的核心原因——源自在线广告的收入现在还不足以弥补纸媒的广告收入损失。这份研究报告显示,由于广告客户纷纷退出,广告价格急转直下,报纸在印刷版业务每损失7美元,其在线收入往往仅能弥补1美元。这项发现(虽然称不上十分科学)是从一项针对6家公司(它们共拥有121份报纸)所做的调查中搜集得来。这些公司在提供数据时要求匿名。《纽约时报》称这个发现“相当严峻”。

    的确如此,但报业的前景还存在一丝曙光,但前提条件是,报业公司必须摆脱惯性。比如,这次调查发现,仅有40%的报纸是根据读者的行为来确定广告受众,实现广告个性化投放。此外,印刷版的广告销售人员大大多于数字版,比例大约达到了3比1。更关注数字趋势的报纸的业绩往往好于那些转型缓慢的报纸。

    让一门“古老的”生意走进新时代通常面临的挑战显而易见。“其一是在一个成熟和垄断性的行业中培养出来的从业者往往难以改变其行为,”皮尤研究中心指出。“另一项挑战是一个难以回避的事实:报业中处于增长态势的部门,也就是数字版,现在还只能带来一小部分的收入;而正在萎缩的部门,即纸质版,依然提供大部分收入。这一悖论很难回避,难以辩驳。人们的普遍感受是,数字化转型已经启动了15年之久,但报业高管们仍然觉得他们才刚刚找到一点门道。”

    译者: 任文科

    Last week, the Eugene Register-Guard published an article online about David Imus, a local mapmaker who was buried in debt until the online magazine Slate praised his cartography gifts in January. Now he's selling maps like crazy, thanks in part to Slate linking to his site, Imus Geographics. The Register-Guard, however, did not provide a link to the site, and added links to Slate and other media outlets' stories only at the bottom of the article, almost as an afterthought. It was a case in point of sorts.

    "Cultural inertia" is responsible in part for the fact that so few newspapers are succeeding online, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. Seemingly small things like linking to the sites that are the subjects of articles is but one manifestation of this inertia. The overall problem is that too many newspapers are still treating the Internet like the Register-Guard treats links -- as an afterthought. Which is not to single out the smallish Register-Guard. The New York Times, one of the best newspaper sites in the world, still often links certain phrases to its own "topic pages," which sometimes throws off people who are used to links taking them to another article or something that will actually explain precisely what the phrase is referring to. Often, that's not a topic page.

    Cultural inertia, though, is just one problem. Economics lie at the heart of the continued shrinking of newspapers and other "old media" -- revenues from online ads just aren't making up for the loss of print-based ad revenues. The study says newspapers on average make up just $1 online for every $7 they lose on the print side as advertisers bolt and rates decline. The findings, while not precisely scientific, were gleaned from a survey of six companies that own a total of 121 newspapers. They shared the data on condition that they remain anonymous. The New York Times pronounced the findings "grim."

    And so they are, but there are some rays of hope -- though they are dependent on newspaper companies casting off the inertia. Just 40% of the papers surveyed target and customize their ads based on reader behavior, for example. And the number of print-focused ad-sales people at the participating newspapers outnumbered digital-focused reps by about 3-to-1. The papers that are focusing more on digital tend to be doing better than those that are slow to make the transition.

    The usual challenges of converting a "legacy" business to a new age are apparent. "One involves the difficulty of changing the behavior of people trained in the ways of a mature and monopolistic industry," Pew notes. "Still another is the unavoidable fact that the part of the newspaper industry that is growing, digital, continues to provide only a small part of the revenue, while the part that is shrinking, print, provides most of the money -- a paradox that is difficult to navigate and hard to resist. One pervasive feeling is that 15 years into the digital transition, executives still feel they are in the early stages of figuring out a how to proceed."

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