Ken Sands, the noted blogger and now online publisher for The Spokesman-Review, was scheduled to talk to my journalism class this Thursday about the evolving blogosphere. Due to very unfortunate events, plans have changed, but I will still post an entry about it, because I think I'm supposed to...
Sands helps editors around the country update their newspaper's web sites. He gives good advice to those starting out, such as to keep blogs to a specific subject and not to write blogs in groups. And Sands knows what he's talking about: The Spokesman-Review was just named 'best in the Northwest' by the Society of Professional Journalists and its online section was given the Online Journalism Award, the highest honor for an online publication.
In a recent post, Sands says he believes that we are at a crossroads in the evolution of journalism and stresses the need for a good business model. In his newspaper's online version he has tried to take advantage of the medium's unique attributes "including: immediacy, interactivity, utility, multimedia, entertainment, archiving, aggregation and community publishing." But when The Spokesman-Review began charging for its print content (not original online text), traffic growth went from 42 percent to zero.
Perhaps people just need time to adjust to paying for online content, but I think that the reason people were there in the first place was because it didn't cost them anything to do it. I think online publishers, like Sands, tend to forget that free content brings you a lot of eyeballs. The key then might lie with online advertising, but even The Spokesman-Review's acclaimmed web site doesn't appear to have any advertisements at all, aside from an inconspicuous column of classifieds.
For all the wonders of information that the Internet can provide, we still need to find a way to get people to pay for it.