A few words about the future of media

A few words about the future of media


A democracy needs a trustworthy, vital press to survive.

People who really know a lot of about the news business talk to me, an outsider, and here's how I read the consensus. There are two big issues regarding the survival of news organizations: trust, and business models.

News orgs earn trust by visibly doing a lot of fact-checking, and by keeping their financial interests separate from reporting. The latter means that the income of the news org should not influence what or how they report. Looks like this is a real concern for Millenials.

Note that fact-checking can be expensive; editorial integrity can also cost revenue.

There are a number of business models which might support news orgs and allow them to thrive. Sponsorship, pay-per-view, subscriptions, philanthropy, and advertising are all possible. However, advertising which focuses on specific products or services is threatened by review sites. As a consumer, I ignore almost all specific ads, and use review sites. For  example, a very trustworthy review site is offerred by Consumer Reports.(Disclosure: I'm on their board.)

Taking this together… trustworthiness will differentiate a small number of news orgs from a much larger number of orgs which forego fact-checking etc.

Trustworthy news orgs will be the winners of the new news environment. People will pay for trusted news, like the NY Times and Consumer Reports, and these will offer good environments for brand advertising, subscription, philanthropy, and maybe pay-per-view.

Otherwise, news orgs will fight over a shrinking pool of advertising dollars.




But here's the question Craig… True that trustworthiness has value in the market, but even so, how much news diversity can the post-paper world bear? Will news sites from LA, SF, CHI, etc. all continue to have bureaus in DC ? Or will they just license feeds from one or two major players?
Will the news market bifurcate into national/international and hyper localized ? Are we carving a hole through the middle of the overall news experience that bleeds off net value to readers?


Craig, I agree that we need the fourth estate to be our watchdogs. However, advertising dollars go where the eyeballs are and more and more of those eyeballs get their news online via web sites, blogs and social media outlets. Traditional media is a dying breed but, as you point out, there are some viable options available that can help it survive.


As for business models, subscriptions work for news orgs that are exclusive and have no particular online public offering, but in no other arena. People are used to getting their news for free, and should be able to garner the facts necessary for good citizenship at little or no direct cost. Pay-per-view is just another form of this, again, pertaining only to exclusivity and unique content — not a mass audience.
Advertising has not been fully tapped yet. On every news site I visit, including this one, there are vast areas of blank white space that could be sold, if even as a loss leader.

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