Newsroom economics and technologies are shifting so significantly that in a few years you may not even be able to find a newsroom, at least not in the way it exists today. Costs are up, revenues are down and major newspaper circulation is down an average of 4.6 percent in the first six months of the year.
As I’m writing this, ten percent of the LA Times reporters – 75 in all – were laid off. That makes more than 12,299 newspaper jobs lost so far this year according to the interactive map of newspaper layoffs. Numerous television and radio stations have cut their news staff, and in 2009 the Christian Science Monitor will replace its daily print edition with web content.
The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York held The New Business Models for News Summit in October. Editorial and business executives from journalism, entrepreneurs and academics met to share new business models for journalism, identify the best emerging practices and to find next steps into this brave new world.
Jeff Jarvis, the summit organizer and head of the interactive journalism program at the university, opened with an overview of how the Internet has powered an evolution [watch the video | see the presentation]. In the old news model “there was the world, we were the press and then it [the news] went to the people. But now, if you draw the world around ‘me’, which is where is should be drawn, I have all these new sources [available to me]: The press is part of that. Other media is part of that. My peers are a huge part of that… We get information from work and companies and government.”
The need for change has been accelerated by recent economic factors. This has resulted in a fast-growing need to take the product, the news, and monetize it in different ways.
News sources on the web today follow two models: One monetizes content, the other monetizes the links to content. Jarvis explained moving from today’s Content Economy to the emerging Link Economy.
“That changes the economics in fundamental ways. In the content economy we owned or controlled content. We syndicated it or sold it because we had that control… We monetized” the news to others selling the content. “They gave money back. The value is created with the content.”
“The link economy: One copy, many links. What this requires of us is to be very open, very searchable, to open our drawers completely to Google and be found that way… we take advantage of the links. He who has the links has to monetize. The links also bring us efficiencies – it’s good news.
Jarvis, in a recent presentation, had one line on a PowerPoint slide that was reported widely to summarize the link economy: “Do what you do best, and link to the rest. That is what the link allows us to do in news organizations. It forces us to specialize and do what we do best. The value is then created with the links”.
He cited the recent cease and desist order the AP issued when bloggers used their content; even though they linked back to and properly cited the AP content.
“I saw these two world views hit each other. The wire service said basically ‘you’re taking our content and our value’. The bloggers said ‘we’re giving you value by giving you links’. Each fully believed what they were saying and there we saw the clash.”
The next-generation newsroom may well replace the reporter or Electronic News Gathering (ENG) crew with a reporter/blogger with a video camera, computer and wireless network connection. Other web sites and networks of users become the distribution channel – not paper carriers. The reporters will have a diverse skill set and it will change how journalism will need to be taught. This is not the future-news. This is NOW.
The story, the golden unit of journalism, may also change to a more efficient method. Michael Rosenblum of Rosenblum TV in the conference summary video gave this example: Take an article about the current financial crisis. If you know little about finance, links within the post (or story) would allow you to find definitions, sources of information – as much information as you want. If you were well versed in finance, it could bore you, and you would prefer other links for other details. The post, links, video and other media to tell the story all become part of the post – which could replace the story as the golden unit.
GroundReport.com is a New York based global news platform that enables reporters around the world to publish videos and articles and earn money based on traffic. They have no newsroom per se. They do have a staff of about ten people, over 2,600 content contributors, 750,000 monthly page views from a worldwide audience and tons of linked traffic.
“The newsroom is not going away— it’s growing up”, says GroundReport.com CEO Rachel Sterne. “It’s evolving. Thanks to digital media and the internet, the newsroom is becoming faster, more cost-efficient and broader-reaching. It’s optimizing itself and moving away from obsolete production models that are no longer scalable— and this is good, because it means journalism can survive and news can become deeper and smarter.”
There will be a learning curve for both journalist and consumers of the news. They may, to some extent be the same people. “It’s tougher for reporters – the audience is always more amenable to being informed and entertained”.
“First reporters need to conceptually accept that the fundamentals of production are changing – that can require a sort of psychological learning curve that is hard to take. Second, reporters need to learn the basics of the new technologies that are now crucial elements to any journalist’s arsenal of tools. And third, to some degree, there will be a constant learning curve— one that requires reporters are continuously learning new skills and exploiting emerging technologies.”
At the end of the day, journalism is a business. It was a vehicle to sell products and services. The monetization – making profit from media to keep the independent and free reporting of the news still has room for innovation. The courts will have to acknowledge bloggers as journalists (or at least set up guidelines) and place the internet on par with a printing press.
“We get to critical mass a lot faster, a lot cheaper and with a lot less risk”, according to Jarvis. “If we look at this new economy here through the eyes of Google, we see that you grow to big size by growing networks not anymore by borrowing capital to buy companies.”
Welcome to the New World. Good night and good luck.