A tipping point sets a milestone for mainstream media evolution

thankyouandgoodbyeI’ve been reading through the News of The World today. It’s the first time I’ve ever bought this newspaper – and the last time, too, as this was its last edition.

The closure that concludes 168 years of newspaper publishing is a sorry end to a popular tabloid that consistently served up the type of fare that captured the attention of 7.5 million Britons every Sunday.

At its peak in recent years, it claimed to enjoy the world’s biggest readership for an English-language newspaper, a view supported by circulation and readership figures for 2010.

The demise of the News of The World (NoTW) came about as a consequence of the phone hacking scandal which has dominated the news in the UK, in the mainstream and the social spaces, every day for the past few weeks and looks set to continue dominating in the coming weeks as events continue developing.

It’s a story with a compelling cast of characters that include the paper’s ultimate owner, News Corporation; the head of that company, Rupert Murdoch, and his ambitions to acquire a golden media prize in the form of pay-TV satellite broadcaster BSkyB; the CEO of the operating company that owns NoTW, Rebekah Brooks (and one-time editor of the paper); the 200 or so so employees who lose their jobs; some officers in the Metropolitan Police who, it’s alleged, enjoyed loadsa money bunged their way by NoTW journalists; the government and Prime Ministers past and present and their cosiness with News Corp and its executives; and the tipping point that led to the paper’s closure – the private citizens whose voicemail accounts were illegally hacked into, their messages listened to and, in some cases, allegedly deleted.

It’s precisely the kind of story that the News of The World would relish in publishing.

But that’s not to be.  You can get a sense of the paper, as I did from leafing through it, with a slideshow of photos that I took today.

(If you don’t see the slideshow embedded here, view it at Flickr.)

So while stories swirl about what it all means and what’s next, opinions and commentary abound and conspiracy theories magnify, I look at my print copy of the News of The World and wonder what can fill the vacuum it leaves.

Maybe something that’s not the obvious, eg, another printed newspaper. Maybe not only another printed newspaper.

My own feeling is that the demise of the NoTW is one further milestone on the evolutionary road to a media landscape that will truly be a hybrid, with content produced by professional journalists combined symbiotically with that of so-called citizen journalists. That means people like me and possibly you – we’re not journalists but we report, we write commentary and opinion, and we’re published, mostly online.

Frameworks are already here. Now things move faster. You can see it coming.

(My podcasting partner Shel Holtz and I discuss at some length our views about this still-developing story in the latest episode of our weekly business podcast which we recorded today. Do take a listen when it’s published tomorrow, July 11, and share your thoughts.)

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