Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

MediaWatch Monday: Pew Survey - Most Journalists Pessimistic About Future

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 12, 2010

A Pew Research Center survey of newsrooms found that more than half of those surveyed say their news organization won't be around in 10 years, and about one-third predicted troubled within five years.

Here are some key findings from: News Leaders and the Future | Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ)

- When it comes to the often-discussed option of pay walls for online content, for instance, only 10% say they are working on them, though that could change. Another 32% are considering them and just 11% have written off the idea. More than a third (35%) have not even considered them at all.

- Fully 75% of news executives have serious reservations about receiving government subsidies, and 78% have significant resistance to financing from interest groups. Roughly half have significant worries about funds from government tax credits and more than a third have significant doubts about private donations.

- Display and banner online advertising, for all that it has failed to grow, is still the No. 1 area of effort and the one that news executives pin their greatest hopes on.

- Broadcasters think their profession is headed in the wrong direction by a margin of nearly two-to-one (64% versus 35%). By contrast, editors working at newspapers were split (49% wrong direction versus 51% right direction).

Foremski's Take: It's clear that newsroom professionals are unhappy with their management's progress in developing new forms of revenues that can replace those lost by transitioning to an online business model. There is a marked lack of confidence in their organization's business strategy, especially in broadcast media.

The continued focus on display and banner advertising is striking, especially since the rates for this class of online advertising are falling. This shows that these organizations have no real understanding of how to move forward, and move away from a reliance on traditional types of advertising.

The survey also shows that there is a perception among news professionals that time is running out for their employers and that won;t help staff morale. It's difficult to bring about changes in news organizations suffering from a sense of impending doom.

At some troubled newsrooms, such as the San Francisco Chronicle, things appear to have stabilized and my contacts tell me that management has said told reporters that things have improved since last year, when the newspaper was losing about $1m a week.

However, massive newsroom cuts from about 400 people three years ago, to about 160 now, have raised workloads for the survivors.

I recently met with Gabriel Sama, Justin Arenstein, and Andrew Purvis, veteran journalists taking part in the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship program, a year-long study and research program held at Stanford University.

I was impressed by their understanding of the changing media landscape and the projects they are working on. The challenge will be to convince media organizations that there is value in experimenting with untried business models especially when those businesses are under great economic pressure.

It's clear that there will be fewer news professionals over the next couple of years as the industry figures out the new business models. In the meantime, journalists might be able to find employment helping companies become media companies.

Many businesses are increasing the amount of original media they produce, ranging from white papers, to video, and podcasts, and they need professionals to help them.
[Please see: EC=MC - Every Company is a Media Company.]

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