Future of Journalism Starting to Emerge

This isn’t going to be some lengthy “think piece,” just a smattering of quick observations because I’m trying to get some stuff done this morning. But here’s a sampling of what’s going on:

  • The NY Times recently began a SF Bay Area edition, with some related Web content.
  • Of course there’s the non-profit Pro Publica for investigative journalism (ongoing funding remains uncertain however).
  • Then in the Bay Area also there’s a collaboration between local public radio station KQED, UC Berkeley’s J school and maybe the NY Times.
  • There’s Susan Mernit’s newish Oakland Local, effectively a blog that has a hybrid magazine-newspaper flavor.  (There are scores of local blogs that have a quasi-news dimension, many presented on Outside.in.)
  • There are the online-only former newspapers, such as the Seattle PI, among a growing number of others.
  • Radio and TV will fill some of the void left by those daily newspapers that have failed — or will fail
  • There will obviously continue to be news aggregators such as the Huffington Post, Yahoo! News, Google News and the new Hearst aggregation effort LMK.
  • There will experimental print efforts (such as printed personalized newspapers).
  • Many traditional newspapers will of course remain and build sustainable print-digital models.

The competitive landscape is flatter online; so news sources from different mediums as well as blogs “compete” with one another. In addition, on mobile devices (smartphones, eReaders) all these news sources are portable like traditional magazines and newspapers.

As the bullets above suggest there is no single model that will prevail, a cacophony of sources and models will co-exist. The central challenge is not journalism or the delivery of news and related news-feature content but the financial models that support these efforts. And there will likely be several parallel models:

  • Non-profit (Pro Publica) supported by donations and foundations
  • Collaboration that involves shared costs (Bay Area News project)
  • Traditional for profit news (subscription + ad support)
  • Free, ad-supported online pubs
  • Subscription only as an option (where there are ads in the free version and no ads for subscribers; Salon does a version of this).

The outstanding question is whether the subscription models for news that are about to be (re)imposed will take hold and be accepted by consumers. Regardless, it emerges as a very creative time. And though there’s tremendous instability in the business of news creation and journalism there’s also opportunity for those with vision and the ability to execute.

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Related: Tim Armstrong’s Secret Project Is To Turn AOL Into A Low-Cost Content Machine

See also: Online only Christian Science Monitor is reportedly doing well.


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