The end of free content?

Last month's announcement that HABM and LABM magazines were being "combined" signals another publication loss to the construction sector, following hard on the heels of the recent demise of Building Products. 

Those publications that survive, and thrive, in the sector are progressively moving on line. RIBA Journal has an overt "digital first" publishing philosophy while AJ moves its print offer to fornightly publication and Construction News' ultimate plan to cease print publication is surely one of the worst-kept industry secrets of all time.

The question is: what happens to independent journalism in an online age?  At a recent talk, with about 100 people in the room, I asked how many people had bought a newspaper: one person put up her hand. We don't expect to pay for news any more.

But journalism, good journalism by qualified and independent writers, costs money.  The traditional model where advertising revenue pays for the journalists whose job is to supply a readership is struggling to find a role in the digital age. And the rise in the use of adblockers may just be the final straw.

Estimates vary, but there is no doubt that the use of adblocking software is on the rise with industry experts citing figures from 10% to 22% of online users.  A Reuters survey in 2015 suggests that over half of 14-24 year-olds are now using them.

How can publishers react?  RIBA Journal and AJ are responding by launching a range of options for paid-for space on their online journals while content creation agencies rush to hire the journalists whose skill is needed more than ever.  The distinction between editorial and advertising has never been more blurry. 

Posted by Anna Hern