Ian Monk: Applaud Murdoch for online venture

A quarter of a century ago, the sages said colour newspapers would never sell. The essence of newsprint, it was suggested, was rooted in a grainy black-and-white integrity that colour would destroy.

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

The genius of Rupert Murdoch, with commercial stimulus from Eddy Shah, the founder of Today newspaper, disproved conventional wisdom. By the early 1990s, full colour was the norm.

Murdoch is trailblazing again, unveiling plans to harness the commercial power of the internet by charging readers for online content from The Times and The Sunday Times. His other newspapers, The Sun and News of the World, look set to follow, along with other major newspaper and magazine brands.

For publicists, paywalls will mean another subtle shifting of the landscape and a new recalibration of the evaluation of our work. The fact remains that, for all the new media platforms available, a high number of clients still set the greatest store by the delivery of an old-fashioned branded cutting or broadcast clip.

The premium remains on our ability to infiltrate the editorial sections of trusted media brands. By placing authoritative stories, on or offline, in The Sun, Daily Mail or The Telegraph, we facilitate an alignment between the values of our clients' brands and those of major media.

Blogging and social media have rightly become an important element of PR campaigns. But because of the unedited, unbranded, often anonymous, nature of the new media forums, their value is at best uncertain.

The migration of newspapers and magazines online has until now been accompanied by declining revenues. Monetising content online should help ensure the future of traditional media. It will also benefit publicists and clients who require coverage that is media-branded, edited and authoritative.

Traditional media face Titanic battles in their fight for online revenue, including the continued existence of the BBC's free websites and struggles with search engines (Google) over the dissemination of free content.

But publicists should applaud Murdoch's initiative and the beginnings of a fightback by traditional media.

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