This week the Independent dropped its media supplement. The paper still prints 7 pages on media, but now it’s within the body of the main paper. Though it may continue to do this, past history suggests this is a prelude to gradually integrating media coverage to the other sections (and almost certainly reducing media coverage as a consequence).
The FT did something similar in 2005. Having experimented with a media supplement on a Tuesday – ‘Creative Business’ – it then ditched this in favour of integrating the content to Tuesday’s paper. After which its media news steadily dwindled.
And only last month Press Gazette moved from a weekly to a monthly – hardly a great format for timely media news. And though supplemented by its website it is difficult to see how, with an audience of 100,000 unique users per month, this will be self-funding, or how it will maintain the depth of its print edition. More likely it will rely increasingly for revenue on spin-offs, and on the annual Press Awards.
So in terms of news about news where does this leave us? Only the Guardian prints a separate weekly media supplement – and has successfully translated the print model online at guardian.co.uk/media. Other papers rely on individual media correspondents (like Dan Sabbagh
But without more structured and edited media news and analysis, what are we missing?
- Campaigns? Not sure who will fight the Freedom of Information cause without a weekly Press Gazette
- Space for debate? The Media Guardian’s BBC special this week illustrated the value of gathering different people together on an issue – particularly those who don’t agree with one another
- Identification of media trends? i.e. stuff a little more nuanced than, say, ‘circulation is going down’
- Opportunity to distill and reflect? Making sense of the vast outpouring of material from OFCOM would be a good start
- Hold some of the media to account? Private Eye can only go so far
Perhaps most of all we’re missing the type of reflection that might help the news media work out what it is and where it’s going. The type of reflection, in other words, that might help it define its sustainable future.