People will pay for great content

It’s a bold statement that, as little as three years ago, would have been the laughing stock of after-dinner conversation among supposedly digital-savvy media commentators.

No longer. It’s the phrase that resounded the most from the cacophony of perfectly-edited, media-friendly soundbites delivered by panelists at the first AGM of North-west Creative and Media Industries this morning.

It’s very much a reality in 2010. If the iPhone has proved nothing else it has illustrated, in multi-million-dollar technicolour, that consumers will happily pay for great content and the routes to view it.

More interesting is the fact that this bold statement came not from the lips of some future-thinking tech-wiz, an acclaimed Net blogger or a 30-something MD from the brave new world of SEO optimisation.

It came from Sara Wilde-McKeown, the regional general manager for Trinity Mirror North-west – the new owners of the Manchester Evening News.

Traditional media has finally joined the noisy digital party. Let’s hope they bring balloons.

They have no choice of course. Those who constantly look back and never look forward have a habit of tripping up don’t they? They also fail to see the bright young things enjoying the first rays of a new sunny dawn in front of them.

Traditional news media, if we believe McKeown is not only part of this all-singing, all dancing, sunshine-soaked dawn chorus, it’s even wearing the latest designer shades and blowing its ravers whistle.

I really hope so. There is room at the digital feast for everyone.

As McKeown so eloquently said: “We’ve all had a rather shitty time of it.”

While that may very well go down as understatement of the day at the NWAGM there’s, surely, none of us who don’t have a pang of sympathy for those employed by the old-guard.

Their captains may have been liable to gamble using their employees livelihoods as the stake and first to flee the sinking ship but, the crew are still putting fuel in the engines hoping it may lead them to the land of new opportunity and security.

In view of the rough crossing, let’s hope their passengers/consumers are still happy to pay for their tickets. Especially as there are newer ships now in view.

It’s a big sea but there’s no room for a Titanic on these waves.

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