The Economy of Journalism

JRM 215

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After listening to Nicco Mele’s podcast, I gained a better understanding of the pressures that the Journalism industry is facing with regards to its economic model. With social media and technology being such a large part of today’s society, newspapers and print publications are having a hard time getting users to actually pay for their content. I think that the lack of evidence in today’s content is causing us to worry about the legitimacy of information. If we don’t figure out a solution to the decreasing revenue that newspapers face, we could jeopardize our right to a fair and accredited form of democracy.

One thing that I found particularly interesting about the evolution of how we receive our information is that Osama Bin Laden’s death was tweeted out before a story was ever printed. Also, the reporter was actually covering entertainment at the time, not even the case. I think that this just goes to show how instantaneous the culture surrounding news is, and that it may not always be correct. This example helped shape a discussion about the 3 core aspects of Journalism, which are:

  • Production
  • Distribution
  • Funding

The first two aspects, production and distribution, are ones that the journalism industry has come to understand well. Instant articles on Facebook and social media editors are just a few of the ways in which the industry has adapted to the growth of technology. However, the third aspect known as funding, is the part of the puzzle that is not well understood. Learning how to generate revenue while also providing desirable content is something that the journalism industry must learn in order to become prosperous again.

One point that Mele made during his presentation was that during the last 3 years, newspapers had double digit revenue declines. Before the decline, preprint advertising made up 20-60% of most newspaper’s revenue. However, companies such as Google have now discounted advertising, which has essentially bargained down the price of what was once a newspaper’s main form of revenue. We are no longer relying solely on Newspapers for information– Buzzfeed, Vice, etc. are currently funded by venture capital. Because equity is currently more important than cash, we need to take a closer look at the ecosystem in which we pay for news, in order to preserve the equality and legitimacy of sources.

According to the podcast, Nico suggests that government and philanthropic $$$ is the key to the future of funding journalism. We should strive to develop sustainable funding models, so that we don’t create a snowball effect of the journalism economy again in the future. One business model that has potential is one that they described as the Micro Payment Model. This model is essentially like iTunes. iTunes works because there is only one iTunes. Therefore, consumers must purchase content because there is nowhere else to buy the song. Mele quotes “the micro model is part of the future of content.” One example of this model is an app called Blendle. This app allows readers to buy premium journalism stories that they find specifically intriguing. They pay a small amount, around $1-2 dollars, per story. This is one way that newspapers are beginning to generate revenue for content again, while also giving the user an incentive of credible news stories. The challenges that this models presents is that 1. People are not used to paying for their content, and 2. we want to get information from a variety of different outlets, not just one singular source anymore.

Overall, the economy of Journalism is in a pretty difficult spot right now. Revenue has decreased a significant amount in the last few years, and newspaper companies are desperately trying to figure out a way to preserve this process of informing our Democracy. With the majority of revenue coming from either subscription content (which the NY Times has become quite successful at) or advertisements, the media is looking for a way to stay relevant in this era of digital advancements. A study that was mentioned in the podcast found that most people want to read stories with either less than 200 or more than 3000 words. Unfortunately, Journalism currently falls in the middle ground of this. In order for the news media to stay economically viable, I think that Longform Journalism is going to have to become very successful. Journalists will need to find a way to create engaging stories that are either much shorter, or much longer. They will also need to create a revenue system that allows users to actually want to buy content, instead of receiving uncredible information but for a free cost. These are just a few of the changes that must be made in order to evolve Journalism into the dominant industry it once was.

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