Three trends that have significantly changed news organizations’ economic models in the digital age
- The power of the package is gone. As audiences move online, the previously profitable ‘package’ model of distribution–if you subscribe to the newspaper, you automatically get all of its sections– is being disassembled. Consumers are now able to choose which particular articles they want to read or which specific show segments they want to watch. Ads used to be sold on the (false) assumption that everybody read everything in the newspaper, but now they are sold based on minute measuring sticks like impressions. That said, destroying the power of the package has provided news organizations with a flexibility hitherto unknown. Organizations can start and stop interesting projects more quickly on the web, and can accordingly take more risks. They also profit from all of their content longer–online, there’s no longer such thing as ‘yesterday’s news’.
- Information is ubiquitous. The audience for every news outlet is no longer confined to local geographic areas. All news organizations reach a global audience. Accordingly, news is becoming more centered around certain topics instead of around locales. Consumers also feel no allegiance to a particular brand. Just because I live in Toronto does not mean that I will get my news from The Toronto Sun. I may prefer the British Daily Mail. (Note: I don’t actually prefer either of those newspapers.) News organizations need to embrace this loss of control brought on by global competition. They need to maximize the potential for ‘user publication’–people sharing news with their friends–and start thinking of a global reach as a blessing rather than a curse.
- Online advertising strategies are still in their infancy. We still haven’t really figured out how to appropriately advertise online. Banner ads don’t draw in customers, and pop-up ads are annoying. Also, because Internet traffic is very volatile, ads supplied don’t always meet ads demanded. Website owners have likened this problem to that experienced by airlines: the plane is going to take off, but will all the seats be filled? Because some articles are very popular and others are not, pricing becomes difficult.
Why Digital > Print and Broadcast
- Creepy Information. Digital news providers have access to a lot of their users’ personal information. News organizations accordingly have a better idea of who their audience is than traditional print and broadcast outlets ever have. Should these digital news organizations capitalize on this connection with their consumers, they could build a strong, vibrant, online community that may help them increase their business. They can build a rapport with their customers.
- News in an Instant. Digital news outlets can provide people with the news when they want it: now. Less and less people wait until the 6 o’clock news to see what happened that day; many have already figured it out online. Through livestreams and live blogs, digital media has reshaped the way people consume information.
- Democratization. Governments cannot control online media like they can closed-circuit media. The Internet provides a platform for information dissemination that has never existed, and it has already helped overthrow despots and dictators the world over.
Why Print and Broadcast > Digital
- Time to think. In the rush to get information out into the world, digital news organizations often lack the time to think about their subjects. Long form journalism is not dead, and it will continue to thrive in newsrooms, publishing houses, and studios around the world. Sometimes people need to read a little more than a headline.
- The name. Legacy news outlets are still recognized by name and still hold large-scale cultural currency. People know them and trust them because of their history. In a world where information is rampant, trust in a news source is more important than ever. Legacy media brands have clout for customers in a way new media start-ups may never have.
- Less is more. Given particular restrictions on content–column space or air time–print and broadcast organizations are forced to think about what is ‘fit to print.’ In engaging in a selective editorial process necessitated by their medium, traditional media outlets are given an opportunity to hone their craft and create high percentages of high quality stories. Sadly, of course, that’s not always the case…