The State of the Future: Not an Island

Posted: April 1, 2011 by braillebone in Uncategorized

The state of the media is not as autonomous as it once was, but the outlook is positive.

The potential for the most informed and analyzed news communication is being realized, and it seems it’s only the beginning. The use of social media and mega search tools like Google.com and the Google Chrome browser have become the compass that directs news consumers (and just regular consumers who follow the endless advertisements ever-so-aptly geared toward readers’ interests based on what they read online). With their help, the journalistic product is being accessed by a mass audience, larger than past readerships ever were.

Rosensteil and Mitchell support this claim and make projections for a different kind of journalistic success when they write:

“the future will belong to those who understand the public’s changing behavior and can target content and advertising to snugly fit the interests of each user. That knowledge — and the expertise in gathering it — increasingly resides with technology companies outside journalism.”

This is something hopeful and exciting within the article; journalism isn’t dying — it’s shape-shifting into an entirely different being. All we as journalists need to do is simply shape-shift with it.

Another optimistic point here is I don’t think it means journalistic integrity needs to be sacrificed to appeal to a broader audience. The same level of public service journalism remains lively. Consider the example of ProPublica, the non-profit news organization built on the backs of esteemed and seasoned reporters from very reputable sources. Their use of Twitter is exceptional, and particularly because they’re a fairly new network and likely wouldn’t have an abundance of money devoted to paid advertising in their budget.

On the other hand, many news sites generate a large part of their income from online ads. According to the State of the News Media overview, online ad revenue for 2010 is expected to exceed print newspaper ad revenue for the first time. While there are some kinks to iron out like the problem that the biggest part of the revenue generated by online ads goes to non-news sources. This surprised me, but I also know this is an inevitable glitch in changing business models. The hopeful part of this is business models will adapt to encourage sustainable revenue, as we’ve recently seen with the New York Times’ paywall.

The most surprising thing I learned while reading this overview was that last year, new media organizations actually started hiring their own reporters to gather news. Yahoo hired several dozen spanning various topics, and AOL had about 900 before they lost 200 as a result of the merger with The Huffington Post. The overview says it’s estimated that the substitution of online journalism jobs matched the number of jobs that were lost in the field of print.

The more time I spend studying journalism and listening to the advice of those with impressive backgrounds in the field, the more hopeful I am that there will be a place for all of us who wish to be there. The frustrating part is, it’s tough to pin down exactly what our work world will look like and expect of us. But readings reports like The State of the News Media make these concepts a little clearer because they provide evidence that supports the continued success of journalism.

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