I was recently attending a discussion between traditional publishers and journalism students about the future of journalism.
The publishers that were attending still believed in the traditional model of news media and were questioning the problems that the industry is currently facing.
When we look at the development in the daily newspaper sector e.g. we can observe a constant drop of newspaper sales (source: IVW study 01/2012). In 01/2012 sales within the German market dropped 3.39% to a total of 21.36 million copies compared to the previous year (01/2011 - 22.10 million). Also the number of consumer publications and trade journals are dropping.
At the same time the use of online media is increasing. With a total of 61%, latest news updates are the most popular searched online offers within the German market (source: ARD/ZDF Online-Studie 2011).
It’s no secret that one of traditional news media’s main problems is the up-to-datedness. Why would people wait for their morning papers if they could have that information already the night before? Of course many newspaper have started to provide online services such as mobile apps, web portals or on demand news. But there are still some mature challenges that the industry is struggling with. After doing some research I would underline the following challenges:
Traditional media’s main income is generated by ad sales. If sales numbers are dropping revenues will drop as well. Even though newspapers have started to invest into online services they did not yet manage to create digital news services that are long lasting, self-sustainable business models, generating moderate revenue.
With the rise of the Internet people have developed a strong sense for free content, such as news reports, entertainment, products or services. At the same time scientists are guessing that by 2018 traditional newspapers will loose 30% of their costumers to online media.
Due to the Internet, information can be spread anytime by anyone all over the globe. Anyone who has something to share is empowered to spread the word. The quality of those information varies depending on peoples knowledge and causes a poorness of relevance.
So far we did not come up with a solution that will solve all those problems mentioned above. But there are a number of people and institutions working on smart ideas that could solve some of them. The New York Times R&D Lab for example works to innovate around new technologies, anticipating consumer’s behavior and building new interfaces for news. Or the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University attempts to help journalism figure out it’s future in an integrated age. They already came up with some very interesting solutions, which I am going to reveal in another blog post.
But looking at the status quo I feel like we not only have to focus on technical or business solutions (1. -2.), but also focus on the quality of news (3.). Here are some numbers just to give you an idea of how people interact with online news media:
Out of 1.000 visitors, 900 read.
Out of 900 readers, 100 write something.
Out of 100 writers, 10 write frequently.
We can’t change what people write about. But we can change the system that enables them to participate. So the question I am asking is how can we create a system that provides the right circumstances to create good quality information?