The business of journalism and news reporting isn’t much of a business anymore. The damage – like a super hurricane battering a low-lying coastal village – has been epic.
The collapse, which started in earnest in 2009, has continued unabated since. By the end of this decade we’ll be lucky if any of the huts in the village aren’t flattened and swept out to sea.
The latest bad news for the industry was captured succinctly in The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism annual industry report “The State of the News Media 2013.” The report was published yesterday.
Some of the startling nuggets from the report:
- Newsrooms are at their lowest employment levels since 1978 – down 30% from its employment peak in 2000 and the industry as a whole has less than 40,000 jobs. To put that number in perspective that means that in the last 13 years 1 out of every 3 journalists has lost their jobs.
- Forty percent of the content on local TV news is now sports, weather and traffic. An indicator of this move away from produced stories is CNN. The cable channel slashed its produced news packages by 50% from 2007 to 2012. Cable news networks as a whole reduced “live” reporting by 30% during the same period. This means fewer “news stories” and more talking heads discussing what used to be light filler news: weather, traffic conditions and sports scores.
- TIME magazine remains the only mainstream news magazine left publishing. It was forced to cut its already depleted editorial staff by another 5% earlier this year.
- The ratio of public relations professionals to journalists has grown significantly. In 1980, there was 1.2 PR officials for every reporter. In 2008, that ratio had grown to 3.6 to 1 and Pew noted “the gap has likely widened since.”
- News organizations are losing the fight for digital advertising to technology companies like Google and Facebook. An irony that must be a bitter pill for news organizations to swallow in that both Google and Facebook produced nearly zero-content and sell advertising around the content produced by others.
The report says:
“This adds up to a news industry that is more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands. And [the] findings… reveal that the public is taking notice. Nearly one-third of the respondents (31%) have deserted a news outlet because it no longer provides the news and information they had grown accustomed to.”
Basically, the picture is this: News organizations are hemorrhaging resulting in decimated newsrooms. Poor quality and a lack of innovation is driver readers elsewhere.
Can I get a “hurrah?”
I didn’t think so.
News organizations are in big trouble and time is running out for them to find ways to save themselves. I see three major issues that have been plaguing the industry:
- They have been hammered by technology and digital media – losing out to aggregators and devices makers for ad dollars. News organizations have been too slow to adopt and adapt and they remained tethered to their print products.
- News organizations shifted away from journalism to more news reporting and slashed their journalists to rely more on freelancers and wire services – alienating their audiences and reducing the quality of their products.
- The generation under the age of 35 has been conditioned by news organizations and technology companies NOT to pay for news reporting. They have been getting it free for so long that they don’t want to shell out cash for it.
What do you think? Any solutions or ideas you want to offer?
Pew Research Center’s State of the News Media 2013
Infographic on the State of the News Media 2013