PEJ: Google, Facebook Are Future of News Delivery
New report says traditional media have become dependent on digital players
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/14/2011 12:01:00 AM
The fundamental challenge to journalism may be that it is no longer in charge of its own destiny in a digital world that has introduced a new layer of complexity and new players on whom traditional media have become dependent.
That is according to a copy of an overview for the annual Project for Excellence In Journalism State of the News Media Report, which was released Monday morning. The eighth annual report includes an analysis of eight main media sectors and is based on both data collected from various sources and original work including content analysis in-house and by outside experts.
That new layer of players includes ad networks, device makers, content aggregators and software engineers, the majority of whom will know more about their audience than the news organizations. "That is a major structural problem," PEJ says.
Which means that the Googles and Facebooks are going to have a growing role in how news is disseminated.
"In the digital space," says the report, "the organizations that produce the news increasingly rely on independent networks to sell their ads. They depend on aggregators (such as Google) and social networks (such as Facebook) to bring them a substantial portion of their audience. And now, as news consumption becomes more mobile, news companies must follow the rules of device makers (such as Apple) and software developers (Google again) to deliver their content. Each new platform often requires a new software program. And the new players take a share of the revenue and in many cases also control the audience data."
That is because in a world of exploding content choices, the future belongs to those who can gauge interest and behavior and target content and ads. "That knowledge - and the expertise in gathering it - increasingly resides with technology companies outside journalism," which suggests traditional media should try to bring that expertise in-house if they want to continue to control their output. NBC, CBS and Forbes are among those who have launched their own ad exchanges, for example, "tired of sharing revenue and having third parties take their audience data."
Among the report's major takeaways include that, for the first time in a decade, all three cable nets lost median audience in 2010, with only the Web growing as a news platform.
Among the other key trends the report identifies are:
1) "The news industry is turning to executives from outside," in part as a response to that new layer of expertise outside the traditional newsroom management and partly because increasingly owners are from the outside as well in the form of private equity investors.
2) "Less progress has been made charging for news than predicted, but there are some signs of willingness to pay."
3) "If anything, the metrics of online news have become more confused, not less." Both news and entertainment content face the same challenge of coming up with new ways to measure new media audience and ad effectiveness as they try to connect the dots (or dotcoms) between content delivery and dollars. The study points out that comScore numbers are sometimes double or triple those of Nielsen.
4) "Local news remains the vast untapped territory." The report suggests that, at least in the nonprofit sector online, "no one has yet cracked the code for how to produce local news effectively at a sustainable level." [B&C editor's note: it remains one of the economic drivers for local TV broadcasters, however].
5) "The new conventional wisdom is that the economic model for online news will be made up of many smaller and more complex revenue sources than before."
6) "The bailout of the car industry helped with the media's modest recovery in 2010," as did the Supreme Court. Auto advertising jumped 77% in local television, for example, and the High Court's decision to allow direct corporate and union funding of campaign ads (the Citizens United case) helped boost ad spend on local TV to $2.2 billion in the midterm elections, a new high.
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