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Last week, as part of the online component of our journalism course, Rob Andrews shared his pearls of wisdom on the future of the industry. Andrews is UK Editor of Paid Content – a website providing global coverage of the economics of digital content.

Rob Andrews at a conference on changing media. He is second from the right.

Andrews was a fellow student at the Cardiff School of Journalism before cutting his teeth at his weekly local rag. He joined Paid Content after predicting all media would eventually become digital. Andrews said he enjoys the flexibility that comes from working for Paid Content as he can work from home, putting together his own video and audio.

Andrews studied journalism at Cardiff - as I am now

Paid Content was set up in 2002 by Rafat Ali , former managing editor of the Silicon Alley Reporter. There’s a good interview with Ali on Greg Lindsay’s website mediabistro.

The UK’s branch of Paid Content is part of Context Next Media, owned by Guardian News & Media Ltd. It provides sustainable business models to decision makers in the media – specifically the entertainment, publishing, advertising, marketing and technology sectors.

During the 2009 World Association of Newspapers Congress, Ali discussed the changing requirements of today’s journalist, as the reporter, the promoter and the business man. He features on the Editors Web Blog website today stressing the importance of having the sense of the changing economics in journalism at the forefront of his mind. He said: “At its best, I am a better entrepreneur because I am a journalist, and I’m a better journalist because I’m an entrepreneur.”

Are we aspiring journalists in for a steep climb?

Andrews was quite frank about the media landscape at the moment, but optimistic about the opportunities it provided for change and innovation. He said the print industry was losing money from having to develop to keep afloat in a time of media abundance. He stressed a solution could be to extend the reach to the digital media, citing online advertising as providing a measurable and targeted way of helping media moguls sleep at night. He thought this solution would be more efficient than traditional forms, so could guarantee investment. Music to the ears of many regional editors, perhaps. But how do Andrews’s predictions effect the local press, where minions such as myself will be looking for a job?

Andrews felt pay walls are a good idea – where specialist content is concerned. He mentioned the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal as pioneers in this area. They are charging for their news of a more financial and business ilk already. He said the scope for pay walls depend on the content;  that charging for local newspaper content online would be suicide, citing an example from Teeside where hyper-local reporting was tested unsuccessfully. I can see this – much as I love my local rag, The Kingsbridge Gazette, I can’t really see people shelling out for ‘unidentified duck on bridge’.

The Wall Street Journal has successfully introduced paywalls

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is keen to introduce a pay wall to The Times as from next year, focusing on the supplement sections. Andrews mentioned findings by a recent PCUK/Harris Poll study commissioned by Paid Content where only five per cent of readers were prepared to pay for online news, and questioned the plausibility of this.

In this case, it may be that value added extras are the way forward – such as The Telegraph charging for its fantasy football, charging for Spotify on the iPhone, or buying news as a commodity on iTunes.

I thought – perhaps it would be a good idea of a new type of service to pharmeceutical companies, providing bespoke content, for example the information on the sections of the stock market that effects them.

But Rob still believes this is an exciting time to become a journalist, as long as we are able to embrace the multi-tasking involved. He says there will always be a call for specialists – despite the rise of citizen and fall of  print journalism.

I hope he is right.

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