Is the cup half full or half empty for journalism?

    by Mark Glaser
    June 11, 2007

    As we as a society change our media habits and spend more time online and with new media, the old media are starting to see less of an audience — and less revenues. There have been repeated attacks by the old line in the journalism world against upstarts such as Google and Craigslist, and even a call for reparations for the damage done to classifieds and print advertising. But others have a more clear-eyed view of the challenges ahead and see a time of positive change. “The journalistic ecosystem could end up healthier in the end, if we get this right,” wrote Dan Gillmor in an op-ed piece. So what do you think? Is this a time of crisis for traditional media, and are the upstarts to blame for all the layoffs and business trouble? Or have the old-line media brought trouble upon themselves? Do you see a bright future or cloudy future for journalism in the U.S. and abroad? Share your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll run the best ones in the next Your Take Roundup.

    Tagged: comments journalism
    • I’m working right now on a pkg. of print outs for a local newspaper, Peoria Journal Star, that wants my company to maybe help them with their web site.

      As usual, they have a too busy home page, a severe clutter problem. But they have some blogs and good intentions.

      Am having difficulty finding any good online newspapers to present as examples of more efficient, usable, and professional design.

      Wall Street Journal online sucks. NY Times online sucks. Barrons online sucks. Not trying to troll or flame, it’s just the simple truth, from a web analyst’s expert point of view.

      Good websites that are complex inside, but appear simple and sleek:

      Library of Congress, NY Post, Art Forum, CyberJournalist.net, Planet Blacksbury.

      What does this tell you about whose fault it is that Old Media, MSM, is dying?

      Online newspapers have to learn from blogs, Twitter, and successful information sites. Instead, they just slap together an ugly “online version” and think that if they build it, they will come. A myth.

      Another problem: eWeek for example, the print version has a set of content that is not mirrored on the online version. As a new subscriber, I’m not sure if the online version is just lagging behind mysteriously, or if they actually have separate content from print version.

    • Correction: Planet Blacksburg, of Virginia Tech.

    • The fundamental problem with journalism is that it is hitched to the ad-supported media business model, which is a third-party payer system. Such a system is wrought with waste and innefficiency, and the worst of all, it separates the interests of the producer from the interests of the consumer.

      More here:
      Gresham’s Law at work in media

      And this from another blog post:
      “There is a lot of hand-wringing and gnashing of teath in journalism because newspapers are failing. That is because journalists have bound themselves to a sinking ship. Journalism will eventually jump ship and realize that they can swim, and even construct their own boat. But as long as they cling to the wreckage of ad-supported media, they will continue to be pulled down.”

      And finally, the way forward illustrated here:
      Advancing Evolution: The dis-intermediation of Media

    • The real answer is “both.” As Dickens said, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” News media are going to be in for a lot of pain over the next few years – there’s no question about that. Much of it is of their own making, as leaders in news media companies have for too long been content to maintain high profit margins and resist investing in research and development. That tide seems to have turned at least a little.

      I remain optimistic, however, that journalism will survive the shakeout that’s going to take place over the short term. There are too many bright minds (Holovaty, Curley, Gillmor, Owens, and countless others) who are working to innovate in the field for great journalism to die off.

      But I also think it’s a pipe dream that the companies that produce journalism are going to ever see the income they saw over the last century – especially newspapers. No matter how much online revenue grows, it will never equal print ad revenue for newspapers. And I can’t see declining readership numbers ever growing again, either. Of course, miracles sometimes do happen.

    • Thanks for pointing out these articles from the SF Chronicle. I found the contrast really interesting and decided to blog about my reactions: http://www.bivingsreport.com/2007/new-media/

    • We’ve had a series of interesting conversations and debates through the Newspaper Association of America’s Digital Media Federation, a group of online newspaper editors, digital media pros and others interested in the future of newspaper journalism.

      The consensus, as I wrote in this Digital Edge blog entry, is that the (newspaper journalism) glass is more than half full.

      Newspapers have boundless opportunity, and there has been a lot of positive development with newspaper.coms and other technologies in the past several years.

      There’s a ton of innovation, neat projects and good thinking coming out of newspaper’s newsrooms, and there are good people working there, as Bryan Murley points out above. In addition, more people than ever before are consuming newspaper content, thanks largely to the Web, and newspaper.com site visitors are a very attractive audience for advertisers. Need statistics? Check this Digital Edge blog entry from earlier this year.

      Yes, change can be difficult and not so much fun. Newspaper executives need to face this changing landscape with their heads up and eyes (and brains) open — and the view that the glass is half full. It won’t be easy, and it will take some innovative thinking, internal disruption, business savvy and more. Armed with those tools, the future for the newspaper industry and journalism as a whole will be so bright we’ll all be wearing shades.

      Recommended reading: Dan Gillmor’s op-ed from the San Francisco Chronicle, and Gordon Borrell’s op-ed on the Digital Edge.

      As a side note, if you’re interested in joining NAA’s Digital Media Federation or would like more information, let me know.

    • For journalists that embrace the new mediums, the cup is overflowing. Global distribution AND hyperlocal content subscriptions (RSS etc). Multi-media and links and living conversations. Of course on the other side of the table is the traditional newspaper owner/publisher staring into a much emptier cup…she needs to move across the table…quickly. But some will and they will thrive.

    • In this age, we’re being told that everyone’s a journalist. And, to a certain extent, they are. They can string words together and now have a platform of sorts.

      But, of course, they really aren’t. They know it, we know it. It’s just a shiny, new era of lower-case “journalism.” That does not mean, however, that the Profession of Journalism goes away. Rather, it gets new attention and focus.

      I hark back to the early days of desktop publishing, when we were led to believe that Sally the secretary could now design brochures or newsletters. True, she could cobble something together that resembled such a thing. But, as a design colleague of mine liked to say at the time, “Just because you have a tightrope does not make you a tightrope walker.” Today, design remains a true profession, practiced by an ever-growing cadre of serious, trained graphic designers. The new tools just made them better, and even led to new specialties, such as user interface design. (And Sally, God bless her, may have gone on to school to learn how to actually become one.)

      We all know there’s much more to “being” a journalist than simply having possession of some tools. I have a blog. I write. I think sometimes I have a voice. But I am not a trained professional. I have great respect for experienced newspaper journalists, for what these people go through to really “become” one over time — and I don’t just mean in school. That’s just the beginning.

      Professional journalists are now in a unique position to lead the way in the age of Citizen Journalism — shine the light, uphold and raise the standards, continue elevating the profession. Granted, the roles they will play in this new age may still be unclear to many of them.

      But the fact remains: we need the tightrope walkers.

    • the thing with social networks is that its like the next big fashion craze. you’re only in it depending on who else is wearing that shirt.

      though friendster was the first mover in the PH, i believe that other services such as multiply and pretty soon, facebook will be dominant players as well because more and more filipinos are joining the bandwagon. friendster doesn’t offer competitive (read: useful) services as facebook and Multiply.

      online stalking is made easier by these two services as compared to friendster as you can view those who viewed your profile by default on multiply, as well as track all associations with your friends of friends of friends on facebook.

      also, i found it weird that multiply didn’t come up in the interview for PH-favored social networking services. what does this mean? i guess it means that the westerners arent aware of that phenomenon because it was overshadowed by myspace and facebook.

      multiply is most useful especially since it provides an easy way to download music, albeit raising eyebrows on copyright issues (in the PH, multiply is the new bit torrent).

    • oops! pls remove that last comment. it was meant for another post on social networking. TY and sorry :(

    • It seems as if there’s some confusion going on here.

      The word ‘journalist’ in one context is used as almost an synonym as ‘news reporter’. Then ‘journalist’, when juxtaposed with the blogging arena merely means writer.

      So it seems to me that we’re completely stretching it if we consider blogging/citizens media as a threat to journalism…unless most areas in the country get their local news from citizen bloggers. That isn’t happening and it’s not gonna.

      No – the direct threat is not so much to ‘journalists’ or the editorial side, but to publishers and the business side. Craigslist, eBay, etc. take away revenue. Publishers hurt, lay off staff – including journalists, and journalism suffers.

      And reparations? Please. The industry is in transformaton – the same can go for book selling, travel agencies, etc.

      In defense of the industry, changes are happening so quicky that it really is impossible to keep up.

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