On march 29 Jay Rosen at PressThink made a post which strikes at the core of our book, and goes deep into one of out themes which is how the Internet, declining readership, bloggers, communities, new insurgents eg. Craigslist etc. are disintermediating the newspaper industry. I would suggest that anyone remotely interested in Journalism or the Future of the Newspaper - read this.
It is a monumental piece. And what is interesting is that the debate is on a number of levels. Firstly the economics: profits are up, but revenues are down - a bad sign that newspapers are perhaps being driven to a profitable demise.
A Harvard professor, Michael E. Porter [has] a last-resort business model for companies undermined by substitute technology. He calls it "harvesting market position." Managers do it by raising prices and reducing quality so they can shell out the money and run. I know of no newspaper companies that are doing this consciously, but the behavior of most points in this direction: smaller newshole, lighter staffing, and reduced community service, leading, of course, to fading readership, declining circulation, and lost advertising. Plot it on a graph, and it looks like a death spiral.
And how many newspapers have shied away from having a full blown digital strategy. But also the moral implications of journalism and what this means in our new digital world.
If older media sectors focus on profit-taking and stock price, they may do so at the expense of building the new technologies that are vital to the future. There are signs that that may be occurring.
what do we take from the old to combine with the new?
The only way to save journalism is to develop a new model that finds profit in truth, vigilance, and social responsibility," Phil Meyer said.
That dull phrase, "new model," includes stuff that is not dull at all. Like a different kind of company to work for, a better sense of how journalists can create value on the Web, a new and deeper commitment to interactivity with users as a way to do more kick-ass reporting.
We in our research for the book came across OhMyNews in Korea the third largest newspaper in Korea and it is populated by 26,000 Citizen reporters. I wonder if the new model can look like this? As it does engage its audience - literally - it has a sense of authenticity - truth - and a greater sense of "social media" that Mary Meeker expoused in her report for Morgan Stanley The Age of Engagement
And here below is a comment from a reader of The ThinkPress: Laying the Newspaper Gently Down to Die. That demonstrates why the genie is out of the bottle. Deep down you see, it is human nature to engage in one way or another. Its just that previously we did not have the technologies that enabled us to participate, to listen, and respond immediately to one or many - as we do today.
1) The issue isn't bias. It is partisanship. See e.g. Evan Thomas, Michael Barone, et al. This produces a "journalism" which isn't worth saving.
2) The inability (actually an adamant refusal) to acknowledge this reality when discussing the future of newspapers and journalism makes the resulting conversation as irrelevant as the threads on Bush and the White House "decertifying" the press corps were. If one fails to accurately perceive the relationship between Bush and the press, it is rather difficult to reach accurate conclusions on what Bush is doing and why.
3) I don't hate America. That was Michael Moore who said that. The one who was embraced (literally) by the Democratic leadership -- the same politicians that 90% of journalists vote for. Interesting that you would use the expression. In psychology, they call that projection.
4) So where does that leave the future of newspapers and the news business? First, understand why you are losing so many readers. Many of them (like me) love newspapers and have always had a several each day in the house. I have lived with the liberal bias forever. That isn't the problem. I don't bother to read the "news" in the MSM anymore because it is woefully inaccurate. The MSM failed miserably to report reality in Iraq. It failed miserably on the economic issues germane to the last election. For at least 20 years, it has failed to report reality on the environment, the homeless, education, foreign policy ... you name it. Is the sorry job due to bias and partisanship or are there other factors as well? Those of you on the inside should be better able than I to discern that. But you have no chance, if you won't acknowledge reality.
This is a thread on the business of journalism. I am a customer. I am telling you that your product sucks and I am willing to take the time to point out specifics of how and what is wrong with the product. I am joined in this assessment by millions of other customers. We are leaving in droves. Any other business operated by rational people and facing this kind of crisis would be listening to the customer and trying desperately to make an honest assessment of performance failure.
Journalists, in contrast, insist on insulting their customers as "bible-thumping knuckle-draggers" and "morons".
The research findings from our book lead us to conclude that it is about Connectivity, Culture, Community and Commerce. You can't seperate these anymore, without failing commercially. Any media that only has one way broadcast as its business model is going to find it harder and harder to survive. And if you don't believe me or what we have to say in our book, then go and read the The Economist Special Report of April2 2005. They use the word "survival" if companies fail to engage.