The way it is:: Newspapers judge readership size/demographics via subscription numbers and use these numbers to make themselves attractive to classified advertisers
The way it will be: A combination of metrics that combine traffic with online relationships/connectivity statistics will become the new way news sites make themselves attractive to advertisers.
The way it is: Newspapers finance the cost of in-depth journalism via the selling of classifieds.
The way it will be: I have no idea.
This is a problem because newspapers provide the financial, legal, organizational and attention driving infrastructure that acts of journalism largely require.
To lend credence to how much this is a problem, consider the results of Pew’s News IQ Quiz (take it – I dare you – it is short and fun!). Do you think a community so ill-informed can drive its government effectively? Try driving with one eye closed (no don’t do that!).
And it is getting worst.
But hey, don’t listen to me, listen to Google’s Eric Schmidt:
Newspaper demand has never been higher. The problem is revenues have never been lower. So people are reading the newspaper they’re just not reading it in a way where the newspapers can make money on it. This is a shared problem. We have to solve it. There’s no obviously good solution right now.”
strictly speaking, the American public does not pay for its journalism – nor has it ever, really.
Advertising and Classifieds subsidized journalism as a side-effect – not directly.
So I tend to disagree with Leonard Witt when he says that “if advertising and journalism are forever linked, we will not have a problem.”
Advertising never directly paid for journalism. Acts of journalism bolstered the reputations and influence of newspapers, that drew demographics, that advertisers wanted to reach. It was the audience that advertisers were paying for.
Attention driving influence is flowing elsewhere now. Like Twitter (yes, I’m on Twitter now).
Read Jack Shafer in “What’s Really Killing Newspapers”:
You no longer need to rely on a paper for the social currency that a weather report, movie listings, classified ads, shopping bargains, sports info, stock listings, television listings, gossip, or entertainment news provide. As falling circulation indicates, fewer do. And the newspaper isn’t the only media hub suffering in the new era. Radio, which once served a similar social role with its menu of music, news, and talk, is plummeting.
One of the more interesting research exercises in all this is examining how we got here.
Christopher Anderson is doing a terrific job of that working on his dissertation, “Networking the News: Work, Knowledge and Occupational Authority in the New Metropolitan Journalism” in the Philadelphia area.
His latest posts (from oldest to newest) “Paying For Reporting, Paying For Conversation … a Thought Experiment.”, “Adding Nuance to the Journalist / Blogger Relationship”, “Philly Newspapers Under Knight-Ridder: By the Numbers”, “Philly Newspapers Under Knight-Ridder: Beyond the Numbers” are must reads.
I say this as a former employee of Philadelphia Newspapers and Knight Ridder.
So if you are interested in the topic, and want to read the thoughts of a non-insider who is doing considerable research in the trenches, go forth and read.