If you were to judge the state of the media from the 2013 report, you’d think an obituary for news organizations, particularly newspapers and television news, was imminent. Where might you read such an obit though? I suppose the news would break on Twitter, then be developed into a full Yahoo article or YouTube video that would then be shared across Facebook. Then again, why would tech or social sites like Google or Facebook report the news at all – and that’s when you make a realization: Despite the decline of advertising revenue to news organizations, they’re not going away.
Google and Facebook may be leading with digital advertising sales, but they’re also expanding the market for them. What this does is drive down the cost of digital advertising – so at some point, revenues will stagnate and decline – right? The 2013 State of the Media (S.O.T.M.) Report illustrates and projects digital advertising growth for the immediate future, thanks primarily to digital developments and mobile devices.
Within the report, it’s noted that people are consuming more news than ever, on more platforms, but there’s a problem. News organizations can’t afford to keep up with the various platforms – nor can they secure advertising revenues at the same rate as the tech/social majors. What we’re left with is a desire for more news, with more immediacy and better interactive/visual packaging, and less operational staff to provide the coverage. Sounds like a contradiction – but what it really is, is an opportunity.
The report has revealed two key opportunities for news organizations. One is the “Second Screen Phenomenon,” which is where a person uses a second device (smartphone or tablet) while watching television to build a stronger connection, or to interact socially with what they’re seeing on TV. The other is organization specific content that’s only accessible once the digital subscription fee is satisfied.
The “Second Screen Phenomenon” is explicitly stated as an opportunity because stations airing/reporting the news may direct viewers to their sites (or apps) for supplemental programming (i.e. guest interviews, additional segments). This is where the second opportunity arises. It’s briefly mentioned in the report that news organizations are shifting away from advertisements generating the bulk of their revenue. Instead, digital subscriptions and “pay walls,” web pages that block content until digital subscription is satisfied, are morphing into the primary revenue generators.
In an industry trying to reposition itself, where do the journalists fit in, and what role will they play? It’s simple, news organizations are trending toward having less employees. As a result, journalists need to adapt, by being able to produce more content as quickly as possible, while maintaining the integrity of the organization, and delivering the packaging readers want. This means journalists will need to have (and improve) their skills in writing, audio editing, video shooting and editing, and photography.
If journalists can find a way to churn more content with better quality – I think this will create another opportunity. Word of mouth is always going to be the most powerful advertising tool – so if one subscriber is moved by a story, or its images, they’ll want to share the story – and if it can’t be viewed without first being paid for, then revenues may increase. I’d like to not have to, but I think pay-per-view articles may be in the future.
As a news consumer this would be bad news, unless the quality of packaged stories justified cost. Think of National Geographic. When a consumer buys a Nat. Geo. Magazine, they’re paying for quality reporting/writing and stellar photos. The articles are sometimes even complimented with online video or television specials. National Geographic stories are interactive in print, yet they’ve also embraced everything from television to social media. The name conveys quality. That’s where news has to improve.
As media business employees, we have to embrace these changes and test which avenues are going to work best for us – and to be honest, that may vary with every single topic, story, or form of media. But I know one thing – I can tell the difference between work I’ve loved and work I’ve just done to do, so can readers. If what you’re doing feels like obligation, they’ll turn away from you. It’s important to try producing the highest quality always. It’s not easy, but neither is reviving something that’s dying – and that’s what’s happening with news outlets.