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.