The future of journalism
Journalism today might seem a little like wagon manufacturing in 1900 at the advent of the automobile. Wooden wagons were wonderful and accomplished the task of getting from one place to another, but the economics that supported the industry mostly dried up.
Twenty years ago, the newspaper was an important heart of every community, even for those who didn’t read them. to buy and sell household goods or pets or used cars, the only game in town was the classified advertisements. to learn of movie listings or television schedules, the printed guides in the news remained the main way to connect with other media.
Today, the economics supporting journalism – especially newspaper journalism – have changed dramatically, and many struggle to find long-term solutions to economic viability. Craigslist replaced classifieds, while Rotten Tomatoes and Fandango replaced movie listings.
Layoffs have been common.
Interestingly, the demand for news as a commodity hasn’t gone anywhere. if anything, Pew says, the demand for news and information has grown. Americans today spend more than an hour a day consuming news of some sort, which makes news a prized part of our lives.
That’s another way the news business is like making wagons in 1900. Demand for the function wagons provided – getting from here to there – never went anywhere. It is just that other people had a better way of providing that function when the automobile took over.
Indeed, families pay hundreds of dollars on new devices like tablet computers and laptops to connect with the Internet, and they spend scores each month on Internet access.
People don’t buy these remarkable tablet computers like Apple’s iPad because of how they look on a shelf. Consumers buy them for what they do. Consumers spend their money, in part, to be informed about the news. The traditional news business, however, receives little to nothing from the money families spend on technological marvels and on Internet access.
So, journalism, for which so much demand exists, struggles on the business side of things as competition for advertising on the Internet pushes profits down and as Google, which spends little to nothing on producing its own news content, grabs a large chunk of the advertising revenue by its search technology and by aggregating the work of others in ways useful to readers.
Because I teach future journalists, I try hard to watch how entrepreneurs solve these dilemmas of making money off of news today. I’ve visited with many of those thinking long and hard about it. I try to read most studies that come out. two recent studies from Pew and the Columbia School of Journalism show the picture is still clouded but exciting.
One telling anecdote, Columbia reports, is that in 2001, Apple Corporation and the venerable Knight-Ridder Corporation that produced many leading newspapers, were about the same size. Today, Apple is valued at nearly $300 billion, and Knight Ridder no longer exists as a separate company.
My take is that three trends may govern the future of journalism: First, journalism will occupy unique niches (consider publications like Potato Grower magazine or narrow websites like politico.com.) second, successful journalism will sometimes be part of other business offerings or find support from non-profit entities (consider propublica.org or The Christian Science Monitor). third, journalism may become less independent as a business as readers look to the writing of interested parties and groups for the same thing they look now to professional news to provide (consider the Heritage Foundation).
Regardless, what is interesting to this Mormon audience is that the editors and managers of Mormon Times are attracting notice. Columbia University used Deseret Digital Media, owner of MormonTimes.com and other online news sites, as a case study worth watching in the future of journalism and of media.
Mormons have always tried to stay near the forefront of media. Whether it was printing presses in Missouri and Nauvoo, Ill., printing operations in Utah within about a year of the first pioneers' arrival or broadcasting operations at KSL and at Bonneville, DDM seems just one piece of a long tradition (BYU's remarkable new broadcast center and new media initiatives at BYU-Idaho in Rexburg, Idaho, are other examples).
Unclear as the future may be, the demand for journalism shows no signs of abating. Here’s to all of the editors and publishers across the country, not just here, trying to provide news and information in ways no one could have conceived less than a generation ago and finding exciting new ways to make it pay in a society that needs good journalism now as much as ever.
<a href="http://www.mormontimes.com/article/20954/The-future-of-journalismtag:news.google.com,2005:cluster=http://www.mormontimes.com/article/20954/The-future-of-journalismMon, 23 May 2011 12:37:31 GMT 00:00">The future of journalism