What used to be called ‘the newspaper business’ is under enormous pressure to change. Sales of newspapers are down and, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, job numbers have been falling since 2001. Its latest report shows there has been a steady decline in employment across many branches of what it calls ‘the information industry’, including film, radio, TV as well as newspaper publishing.
According to the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School in the US, ongoing changes in the newspaper industry are unavoidable. Journalism will never be able replicate the revenues previously generated by mass advertising and new business models for content creation and production must be found. This is brought into focus by the ongoing debate between Google and the news media in a number of European countries over payment for access to content.
In the UK the Financial Times has recognised the need to change. Its editor has written about the need to balance decisive leadership with ‘good journalism, deep reporting… and new delivery methods’ and why pursuing a digital first strategy was so important to the future success of the paper.
New business models and new roles will inevitably emerge and the situation is fast-moving and dynamic. In the UK, Edinburgh Napier University’s Institute for Informatics and Digital Innovation is advertising for a Research Fellow in ‘e-punditry’ to explore this changing landscape of new roles, new skills and new formats. The Tow Center researchers describe the need for ‘a … profession of highly skilled individuals who can work in a data-rich world of crowds and algorithms to find and tell the world important things they would not otherwise know.’
Information professionals and news content
FreePint recently surveyed corporate information managers on their news needs and preferences and identified the factors which they have to balance in their news acquisition decisions. Beyond the tensions between fee and free content, they report their raised expectations for premium content. They are looking for specialised features and content sets and additional functionality such as post-search processing and analytics.
The suggestion that [some] people will pay for guaranteed quality may well be reflected in the ‘surprising success’ of the New York Times paywall launched in 2011. However, an increase in subscriptions is just part of a complicated story which includes a decline in advertising revenue and a reluctance by subscribers to renew after taking advantage of cheap ‘introductory offers’.