The good news about fake news
Credible, traditional media titles that charge for their articles online have more subscribers
There has been quite a global scare about “fake news” — articles, pictures and videos that purport to be the real thing, but are in fact the invention of those attempting to undermine traditional news sources.
US President Donald Trump is at the forefront of publicly trashing “fake news” — and at the forefront of disseminating it. His counsellor, Kellyanne Conway, even has a name for it: “alternative facts”.
Unsurprisingly, the ready band of assault Twitternistas who spend their time denigrating the establishment (until it pays them to stop, of course) have predicted that “fake news” will kill the establishment news media.
In fact, the opposite is true.
The plague of fake news has generated new interest in credible, traditional media titles such as The New York Times and the Financial Times, both of which charge for their articles online and both of which have had an uptick in subscribers wanting access to credible news.
According to the Financial Times: “The New York Times alone added a record 267,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter, most of them after [Trump’s] election.”
The same is true locally, with this esteemed journal (ahem) now charging for access to its columnists and its lead story, along with sister paper Business Day, under the banner of BusinessLIVE. (Full disclosure: I am the editor of this online product).
It goes without saying that producing quality journalism and then giving it away free is not, as they say at business school, a business model.
Yes, there is anxiety about fake news. But, in the words of The New York Times’ CEO, Mark Thompson: “I think the public anxiety to have professional, consistent, properly funded newsrooms holding politicians to account is probably bigger than all the other factors put together.”