Last evening saw Stationers’ Hall fill for the Annual Lecture. The fans thronged the stage door, or rather, Members and their guests enjoyed a drinks reception in the Stock Room, in excited anticipation of what this year’s lecturer, Libby Purves OBE, would say in addressing her topic Content providers in the age of Discontent.
What followed was a series of actually quite telling points to ponder about the economics of publishing, focusing on newspaper but also covering magazines and books. The migration from hard copy to online delivery, for which vast swathes of the population seem unwilling to pay, (even though as Libby pointed out we all bought newspapers not so long ago!) has proved financially difficult. If the reading public are not willing to pay for content then is good content doomed? Could free content, financed by advertising, ever be impartial? Can solid journalistic training for young people be provided if there is no income from which to finance it? Can news correspondents in difficult parts of the world such as Syria continue to be supported if their stories have to be provided free? It was all very thought-provoking and yet delivered with a light touch and much humour. There were lots of questions from the floor (Libby obviously has a huge fan-base within the Stationers’ membership, one even declared herself a “Libby geek”!) and these were managed by our own in-house moderator, Court Assistant Michael Binyon OBE. A great evening!