The Times they are a’ changin’

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Not just The Times, but The Scotsman, The Press & Journal and The Courier.

Newspapers everywhere are under greater pressure than ever before to come up with the answer to how they can survive in 2016 and beyond. As they face a blitz attack of competing communications channels from digital and social media, the position of traditional newspapers is under threat, so it is not a light-hearted matter – far from it – and is one which has an impact upon everyone in business.

We’ve witnessed different tactics being adopted by three of Scotland’s main dailies. The Scotsman announced it is making a full digital version of the newspaper available via its newly launched iPad app while both the Courier and the P&J have shifted from broadsheet format to compact in a bid to revitalise the product.

The reason for such moves is an attempt to maintain income flows and/or arrest the decline in circulation figures which have been steadily spiralling downwards, in the main due to the numbers of people turning to the proliferation of new online sources to get their information.

Those who see this as ‘market forces’ may believe it is a natural progression or ‘survival of the fittest’, and that the digital revolution will simply see new and different means of us getting our daily information fix. Quicker, cheaper, easier. Mobile info, when I want it.

This is to miss a key point; content is the key and it must be allied to a quality, reliable source. Digital delivery does have several benefits but the proliferation of self-appointed blogging experts (and I do see the irony of using this means to express my views) cannot replace the trustworthiness gained over decades which is inherent in our principal newspapers.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]It may seem odd to say that at a time when the phone hacking scandals are still having severe repercussions (and rightly so) but I believe that the publications serving Scotland’s business community have, overall, a tremendous record of delivering good quality information. Scotland’s business journalists are informed, they are integrated into the business community and they have built up justifiable reputations as good analysts who write coherently and effectively on a wide range of topics.

My concern is that we have entered an era where anyone with a PC or smart phone can become ‘an instant expert’. Bloggers, tweeters, posters all have the power to deliver their views to a wide audience, but lack the accountability (and, mostly, the experience) that mark out the Scottish media as a vital cog in the nation’s business infrastructure. Quality information from reliable sources is what we need.

Worryingly, there is a real risk that some of these important publications could disappear – to me, this is an appalling prospect. Too many people are being seduced by the belief that, somehow, the means to Tweet one’s thoughts in 140 characters is the 21st century equivalent of the Gutenberg printing press.

I do not want to know what “Jim from Arbroath” or “Susie from Kilwinning” thinks (BBC Breakfast – take note). I want to read the reporting – and views – of someone who has, through their ability and hard work, achieved a position on a business desk and who, through continuing effort and acquired knowledge, delivers quality copy on a regular basis within a system of editorial checks and balances.

Scottish businesses need quality journalism and we must support it however we can – we risk losing it at our peril.