When did good journalism die?

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2011/11/20 · 23 comments 8,109 views

in a dos and don'ts,d business ethics,d business wef davos

My favorite librarian Andrea Glover once told my students to always find the original source (see also ComMetrics Intel Show).

Article source – When did good journalism die?

What does this have to do with trust and credibility; journalism, blogging and white papers from corporate R&D labs?

Before I explain what all of this means for your work, sign up with your email and join our over 5,000 readers:

The way we were

The newspaper business has changed drastically, as noted in a recent study about the newspaper industry in Canada, United States and the UK. It found that, in a UK street with 100 homes (see p. 17):

- 1950 saw 140 daily newspaper purchases and 220 every Sunday, while 9 percent of households owned a television; while
- 2011 saw 40 daily newspaper purchases, seven days a week, and each household owned 2.6 televisions.

Quality and who we are

Image - Graphic Financial Times 2011-05-06 - page 7 - Increasing data: 'The result is the rise of techniques such as behavioural clustering (grouping people on the basis of common behavioural characteristics, rather than more traditional demographics) and look-alike marketing (marketing to a particular user based on previous successes in marketing to others with similar profiles).' The amount of data produced annually is increasing exponentially, meaning we create data equivalent to every single person in the world reading 174 newspapers daily.

With this increasing amount of information, quality of content is a hotly debated issue, by us, too:

From fee to free: Will e-readers revive newspapers?
ComMetrics weekly review: New York Times, Wall Street Journal and The Guardian

The Swiss Media Quality Yearbook (German) tries to provide a comprehensive overview of how free news sources have influenced quality of print, TV and online coverage.

Unfortunately, the authors have not addressed quality issues per se, but use subjective criteria, such as writing style or publication quantity on a certain topic, to make inferences about decreasing quality of coverage.

For me, quality of coverage has more to do with:

- the depth of the article or blog post,
- the veracity of reported facts and/or issues under scrutiny (e.g., source confirmation, research findings), and
- the author’s understanding of the source and its methodology (see Raise your hand if you hate research).

This is often not the case with blog posts and newspaper articles (see bottom of post for further resources).

By the way, what will be your biggest challenge in 2012? Participate in our ComMetrics poll (see right-hand column)!

Digital cannot save print media

Because we constantly produce more news and quality is hard to assess, it has become important for newspapers to demonstrate value for their paying customers, who are continuously wooed by various free news sources.

Still, newspapers have tried hard to get a share by repackaging their content in various ways. German tabloid Bild started a paid-content drive in December 2009, but new digital sales did not make up for 300,000 languishing print copies in the first half of 2011, averaging 2.9 million copies a day.

SZ Magazin App - logo - 40,000 downloads, but almost no revenue.Just because we have an app does not mean people want to use it. Five percent of users take advantage of an app 20 days after downloading and paying for it, but only 3 percent do so with free apps.

So when the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung announced 40,000 downloads of their free app, revenues only added up to about €750 per weekend. Not too impressive for your bottom line.

Creating synergies between content

Some newspapers have tried to solve the challenge of digital media not replacing lost print revenues (see Bild example) by getting into other businesses. The Financial Times organizes conferences, an example of our tip to re-imagine content, meaning they produce videos, publish a printed and shortened version in the newspaper, offer a podcast of the video, etc., instead of recycling content. Delegates’ registration payments help the newspaper create this content while making such ventures profitable.

This one was printed on 2011-11-15 (FT, p. 6) and uses the FT’s own as the headlining so-called visionaries and key decision-makers. But who are they kidding?

FT Journalism and Conference Management - Promoting yourself by featuring FT journalists as being the key decision-makers, strategists and visionaries in attendance.

I start to wonder when we are sold on the value of a conference with journalists’ head-shots, not those who provide the meat of the content (see names at bottom of screenshot).

TipSearch for more videos & slides about ROI, cost-benefit analysis for social media, Facebook & Co from CyTRAP – ComMetrics (click to query).

Bottom line – takeaways

ComMetrics - benchmark your social media efforts - use our tool.Of course, you can ignore these trends at your own peril. ‘Freedom of expression’ will always challenge people’s right to privacy. However, to ensure the survival of a vibrant press – in print and/or digital form, we must manage two developments:

1. Transparency of process: Things would look better if the press were subject to process transparency. ”High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below; do not cut & paste the article.”

That sounds great, but why don’t journalists give us a link to the resources they use to write their piece? That way, I’ll know whether it is based on a press release or actual investigative reporting. Increased transparency is critical, as suggested by O’Neill, Onora (November 18, 2011). News of this world. Financial Times, Life & Arts, p. 1 & 19.

2. Quality is key: Whatever the revenue strategy (e.g., print, digital content, conferences, etc.), quality is key to ensuring that people will continue to shell out money. Why pay if free news sources are no worse than paid ones? How long before the few remaining differences disappear?

For now, all we can do is wait and see how news outlets manage this challenge. If they fail, they die, and the world will be the poorer for it.

Disagree? Sure. Leave a comment and befriend us on Google+!

TL:DR
@ComMetrics says: When did journalism die? Unless… | Tweet This

More information about this topic:
Wall Street Journal, New York Post, New York Times, Le Monde – Dropping ad revenues and continuing losses
- 2011 Swiss Media Quality Yearbook
Swiss Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM) – various studies conducted by universities about the media sector on behalf of, and paid for by the regulator – in German (also available in French and Italian, see top right corner)


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