Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Meanwhile, in the US: Economic challenges usher in era of the niche for mainstream media

I don't think this trend is going to happen anytime here soon, but the possibility is there nevertheless.

From Tom Rosenstiel of Project for Excellence in Journalism:

State of the American News Media, 2007:
Economic Challenges Usher In Era of the Niche For Mainstream Media, Says Fourth Annual PEJ Report

Every Component of TV News Is Losing Audience

Washington, D.C. – "For the first time in years, every sector of television news lost audience in 2006. And newspapers, despite garnering a larger audience than ever for their content via online platforms, faced more downbeat financial assessments. The shifting economic fundamentals are spurring mainstream news organizations to try to build audience around 'franchise' areas of coverage, specialties and even crusades, according to a new report on the state of journalism in America by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a nonpartisan, non-political research group.

"The new phenomenon is exemplified by cable news, which had been growing for a decade, but is now suffering audience declines. Cable’s “Argument Culture” is giving way to something new: the Answer Culture, a growing pattern that has news outlets, programs and journalists offering up solutions, certainty and the impression of putting all the blur of information in clear order for people.

'These are some of the conclusions from The State of the American News Media, 2007, a 700-page comprehensive look at the state of U.S. journalism by PEJ, a project of the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. and funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts. This is the fourth annual report.

"'Trends that we have been tracking now for four years are reaching a pivot point,” PEJ Director Tom Rosenstiel said. 'Only one media sector, the ethnic press, is still growing, and every measurement for audience—even page views and visitors—is now being questioned. Things are now moving faster than companies can even recognize. Mainstream news media are adapting, in part, by focusing on specialties. In a sense, every outlet is becoming more of a niche player with reduced ambitions.'

"That does not mean that journalism is dying. There is even more reason than a few years ago to believe, the report concludes, that the old newsrooms of America are most likely to be the successful newsrooms of the future.

"But the report also cautions that the consequences of the overall trend toward franchise branding remain unclear. 'Hyper localism,' a favorite term on Wall Street, can be market speak for simple cost-cutting. Branding can be a mask for bias. Pursued mindlessly, the franchise approach could also spell the death of a big city metro paper. The character of the next era, far from inevitable, will likely depend heavily on the quality of leadership in the newsroom and boardroom, the report concludes.

"The 2007 report includes a special content analysis of digital journalism, which systematically examines the nature and character of more than three dozen websites offering news and information in a variety of styles. Among other findings, the online analysis concludes that while journalists are becoming more serious about the Web, no clear models of how to do journalism online exist yet, and some qualities are still only marginally explored. Features such as immediacy and customizability, for instance, have been developed much more than others, such as depth or the use of multimedia."

The study, which contains detailed charts, graphs and citations, can be accessed online at www.stateofthemedia.org. Photos in this post from the site.

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