What’s this fantastic world we created? That is the larger perspective seeing the bigger picture. Those of us concerned with real journalism were glad to watch the 2010s bring a brighter decade forward. Indeed, those of all who care deeply about real journalism were probably happy to watch the 2010s finally go away.
But what do those of us concerned with actual journalism do with this golden age of online publishing? We have noticed that the online explosion has actually created a vacuum for some otherwise hard-working newspapers. In some cases, there are several competing for the same advertising dollars. Some of the newspaper publishers who remain in business are finding themselves struggling just to stay afloat. Worse, some of those who have closed their doors to find that they can’t quite figure out how to continue.
In some large cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, the impact of the loss of local news business has been severe. In many major cities including those in Texas, Houston, and Orlando, the impact on the regional newspaper industry has been profound. And it is not likely to get any better.
What is the solution? There isn’t much that could have been done to avert this digital disruption of the news business. Most newspapers, even those in cities where Internet business opportunities abound, simply are not equipped to adapt. That is an astonishing statement given the advances in digital technology over the last couple of decades.
But the “real news” business of newspapers is not going to disappear. It may, however, find a new venue – a venue that is both thriving and vibrant and capable of providing the financial base upon which it is based. The real news business will continue to attract a significant number of online publishers who will then generate revenue through advertising. But this new venue for publishing the news will be different from the models utilized by most other publishers in that it will be largely financed by advertising revenue.
If you look at what happened over the last ten or twenty years, you’ll see that the real news business has been transformed by the impact of the explosion in the number of web publishers and by the model adopted by many of these publishers for financing their operations. When the number of web publishers exploded, so did the number of freelance writers and editors who were willing to write content for the web. This new influx of journalists and freelance writers brought with them an enthusiasm for the news that was previously confined to a small group of people. Aided by the proliferation of blogs, many more of the general public became interested in what was going on in the world.
As the number of publishers increased, so did the number of journalists and the number of publications. At first, this meant that more of the same quality of journalism that was practiced in the traditional media business was being published on the web, but as the field of digital journalism developed, the news business learned that it was also necessary to change the way it approached its production and distribution. The model adopted by the majority of the major news publishers in the last decade or so was to develop a revenue sharing arrangement with the news outlets that handled their content.
In a nutshell, the revenue sharing model is where the news business links its ads to the revenue that it makes from its Facebook, Google+ and Twitter accounts. While it may seem like a small amount to pay for the freedom to publish your content, this represents a substantial increase in the flow of revenue. If you consider that the three largest social networks now all have hundreds of millions of users, you can see that the potential for revenue is enormous. In fact, this year, the three platforms combined will generate more revenue than the entire Microsoft operating system generated in the last year. And this isn’t even considering the apps that are available on the mobile side of these platforms. So the bottom line is that if you own a business and want to be able to make your news events available to hundreds of millions of people through Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, then you need to join the social networks.