Old-fashioned journalism shines on internet, but ad strategy lags
Mar 18, 2008, 3:51 GMT
San Francisco - An annual study of the changing face of journalism in the internet age found that 'old media' content was as popular as ever but said that advertising executives had failed to find new ways to monetize that content.
The report released Monday also found that the scope of news coverage in the US was narrowing - and tended to focus on just a few headline topics.
The State of the News Media report released by the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) said that mainstream media as a whole were keeping their audience. But it had not devised ways to get its new online customers to pay for the information.
The finding ran contrary to many earlier predictions that the internet would create a citizens' media in which grassroots reporting would challenge the coverage offered by the old media titans.
To the contrary, the the report found that the top 10 online news sites in 2007 were either big-media operations - such as The New York Times or ABC News - or online aggregators such as Yahoo News or Google News, whose content is largely produced by traditional media outlets.
'The fact is that the audience still sees a lot of value in reporting about public life,' said PEJ director Tom Rosenstiel. 'What (media companies) need to do is figure out how to make money doing that. It would be a lot harder if the audience didn't like the product, but they do. It's much easier to fix problems on the business side,' he said.
The report, which analyzed many sectors of the media - from newspapers, magazines, TV and radio news to ethnic media and online providers - said 'more people now consume what old-media newsrooms produce, particularly from print, than before.'
'Increasingly, it appears the biggest problem facing traditional media has less to do with where people get information than how to pay for it,' the report stated. 'Advertising isn't migrating online with the consumer.'
Rosentiel estimated that it would take 10 years for the advertising and editorial spheres to realign and stated that 'we are just as the beginning of the process.'
The report found that newspaper circulation dropped 2.5 per cent nationally, while online viewership of newspaper Web sites increased 3.7 per cent. But the online ad revenue for most newspaper websites is usually only about 7 per cent of the news outlets' total income.
In total, advertising revenue dipped 7 per cent and stock prices of newspaper companies have plunged 42 per cent since 2005.
The report analyzed more than 70,000 stories appearing in newspapers, cable and network television and radio news shows, and found that pieces on the war in Iraq and the US presidential campaign occupied nearly one-third of the coverage.
'The whole rest of the world filled less than 6 per cent of all the space,' Rosenstiel said. Domestic issues such as education, welfare, religion or labour each accounted for less than 1 per cent of coverage.
Even though ratings for local and network evening shows dropped, the TV news business largely enjoyed good financial news because, Rosenstiel said, their advertising sources have remained strong. Ethnic media also experienced growth, with ad revenue for Hispanic papers up 13 per cent from 2005 to 2006.
But while old media content dominates the online news world, it has a very different character than it did in the days of the once-traditional printed newspaper.
The report found that news had been transformed from a product to a service that was constantly being updated.
'Service broadens the definition. Journalism must help citizens find what they are looking for, react to it, sort it, shape news coverage and - most important and least developed - give them tools to make sense of and use the information,' the study said.