The State of the Media report from the Project for Excellence in Journalism has published a special report today from a survey of 300 Online Journalism Association (ONA) members (me included).
It examined attitudes and practices in the craft and drew some conclusions based on the large sampling. Among the findings from online journalists:
- More optimism than their legacy counterparts and a strong belief journalism is headed in the right direction.
- Support for the rich-media attributes of digital journalism as positive developments for the craft.
- Concern that standards were loosening, journalists' power was weakening, and speed was subsuming accuracy.
- Predictions that advertising support will be the prime revenue stream in the years to come.
The survey determined a majority of online sites were profitable but had been cross-subsidized by legacy media.
The sixth annual State of the Media report was released late Sunday and its online chapter suggests great promise and equally great challenges in online journalism. This is my third take on the report and other posts will come in the time ahead.
The report authors suggest 2008 may be looked upon historically as a milestone in the history of the Web as a news destination. Traffic is growing and the Web now surpasses all but television in the U.S. as a news source. Established media gain the lion's share of audience, but there are many new players breaking into large markets for their original work.
But the Project for Excellence in Journalism also concludes that the model that built legacy media --- advertising-based support --- will not work in the new. The stall, then decline of online advertising makes clear that a new revenue model for news is necessary, yet little or no progress was made in the year in finding one.
Time is short, the report suggests, and it is no better for the upstarts than the challenged legacy players: " Among new alternative outlets, the economic model looks no more promising. For all the experiments with new ways of reporting, producing, disseminating and sharing news content, most of the money to support them has come from philanthropy or private individuals. There has been little honest assessment of economic sustainability."
The sixth annual State of the Media 2009 report released late Sunday offers the hardest portrait yet of the American newspaper industry. This is the second take I'll summarize and there will be more to come in the time ahead.
The report authors set the tone in the opening sentence: "The newspaper industry exited a harrowing 2008 and entered 2009 in something perilously close to free fall."
With that said, the Project for Excellence in Journalism report does not believe the newspaper is dead or even really dying --- at least, the multiplatform efforts of the newspaper-built newsroom. It notes the sector was quite profitable in 2008, that it holds a very large share of advertising, and that its audience remains quite strong.
But it is under some siege, the economic downturn has distracted its efforts to reshape the business, it has made some questionable calls, and it is by no means assured a bright future.
In the present circumstance, the authors say it does not make sense for newspaper companies to shut the presses and go online-only. But that doesn't mean change isn't necessary: Costs need to be controlled, and with that will come less journalism and the potential that cuts will disaffect customers.
There is little room for price increases or to charge for content online, the report asserts. The business will rebound on the basis of its journalism, and while the newspaper industry seems poised to capitalize on innovation, it isn't clear if it can attract the sort of innovation necessary to succeed.
The sixth annual State of the Media report was released late Sunday by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and a cursory reading of its voluminous findings identifies enormous food for thought. I'll post several takes on it in the time ahead.
The project authors are clear: This is the bleakest report of the six. The necessary digital transformation of the news industry is made more challenging and swift by the economic challenges. Only cable television enjoyed a good year, and many media are in dire circumstances.
Moreover: "There are growing doubts within the business, indeed, about whether the generation in charge has the vision and the boldness to reinvent the industry. It is unclear, say some, who the innovative leaders are, and a good many well-known figures have left the business."
The first pieces worth digesting are four of the six major findings:
- "The growing public debate over how to finance the news industry may well be focusing on the wrong remedies while other ideas go largely unexplored." The report is particularly critical of the recent reprise of the interest in micropayments. It says news organizations would be better to explore subscription niche sites for the elite, cable-based models and online retail malls
- "Power is shifting to the individual journalist and away, by degrees, from journalistic institutions." The report detects a movement toward individual writers and away from institutions, although it isn't concluding this is permanent.
- "On the Web, news organizations are focusing somewhat less on bringing audiences in and more on pushing content out." There is a real drive to use multiple sources of distribution to get content to an audience.
- "The concept of partnership, motivated in part by desperation, is becoming a major focus of news investment and it may offer prospects for the financial future of news." The report notes that economics and a new understanding of competition has formed new partnerships.
The Project for Excellence in Journalism has started to chronicle the coverage of bloggers and the mainstream media --- I suspect it's in order to determine the differences.
The second edition finds quite the variance. The mainstream focused on the economy, while the blogosphere had three principal stories --- the economy, President Obama's criticism of Rush Limbaugh, and a road sign that had been redone to suggest a zombie attack was coming.
The New Media Index promises to be a highlight of media assessment.