Monday, March 15, 2010

Report: Media in Free Fall; Niche Not Picking up Slack

The State of the News Media 2010 shows a pretty dismal story for the health and status of local media. Rather than repeat it all, check out Greg Sterling's post which highlights some key charts that show the decline, primarily in newspapers. There is also a pretty shocking chart showing the impact of the recession and disruption combined on traditional media revenue in 2009.

“Audiences continue to fall for newscasts across all time slots. Revenue, too, was in a free fall. Looking ahead, most market analysts project revenues to grow only slightly, but that is hardly taken as good   news given that it is a year that will include both the off-year elections and winter Olympic Games,” the Pew report said.

Compounding the problem, Pew found that media doesn't know how to monetize their content --  "It remains as unclear in 2010 as ever how to monetize the growing audience."  

The results fuel a fire led by folks like Jeff Jarvis, Michael Rosenblum, and more recently Marc Andreesen that recommend media "burn the place to the ground" and start over.
  
It's a dense report (summary) and with so many people doing summaries I focused on the Citizen Journalism part of the report. The findings in that part of the report are certain to anger hyper-local and citizen journalism advocates. The reports finds that both HL and CJ are wanting in terms of quantity of content, resources and overall ability to compete with traditional media. The conclusion appears to be that CJ and HL are not in a position to fill the shoes of traditional media. 

The framing of the evaluation and results seem odd at times and suggest a bias against the emerging ecosystem. The report looked at with 363 journalism Web sites across 46 randomly sampled markets. The result: "The citizen news sites offered less news, fewer updates and were less open to interaction with readers than traditional news websites."

One criticism that the report focused on was a lack of transparency in mission. For instance the report found "citizenwausau.com did not have easy-to-find mission statement or contact information." While I understand and respect how journalists evaluate the journalistic integrity of these sites, I believe they overlook the fact that the audience may not care that blogs, HL sites and CJ sites are missing mission statements.

The report throws out a half-hearted comment of hope at the end of the section.

"Despite the gaps between legacy news coverage and citizen news, highly promising citizen and alternative sites are emerging daily."

Despite this hopeful comment, the report seems to conclude 'traditional media is in sharp decline and don't expect citizen journalism to pick up where traditional media is falling.'

The report falls short of suggesting where one might seek out the future of journalism. A quote from Jane Stevens, the director of media strategies for the Kansas-based World Company may allude to what the authors think:

"You have to integrate community conversation with ‘traditional’ journalism.... That means providing the same tools to the community, including businesses, as journalists have, and focusing content on how to solve problems and improve the community."

No comments: