JOUR933 – Online and Research Journalism Essay
Assignment 3: Reflective Essay
1. Discuss the impact of commercial pressures on print news media investigation at the local level. ( Study Program, Week 9 )
We perceive the daily press as an important platform in our democracies because it acts as a watchdog, informs, comments and scrutinises, and gives access to individuals and groups to have a public debate. For various reasons traditional mass media are likely to continue to dominate the political discourse, and as a society we wish newspapers to keep their special role in this.
Newspapers as carriers of content have had to yield various functions in the past century to radio and television services, and now there are other categories of information that might migrate, this time to the net.
The printed paper risks losing revenue generators such as classified and personnel ads, and thus runs the risk of becoming less profitable. Unexpected competitors such as search engines and free homepage services, as well as the online directory services of television stations, now fight in the same arena for the user’s attention and the limited advertising money available. New services, such as interactive features, guides to information sources and community building are new to newspapers, as is the continuous production cycle that the Internet requires.
The information that seems to be given away so abundantly on the Internet is largely free. Throughout the interactive process, we are also able to influence the information on offer, or create our individualised version.
However, is the information on offer as free as it seems? Users ‘buy’ information with their attention and data about their preferences and interests.
They are rewarded by membership of a ‘club’ and free individualised information. Marketeers and publishers are working side by side in this field.
A resulting reason for concern could be the changing financing models for the media. A printed newspaper sells advertising on the basis of circulation numbers. In other words, it sells the number of readers that could potentially see a particular ad, and does not account for the fact that readers skim through and skip large portions: no matter how superficially they are going through the paper they might, after all, see the ads nonetheless. On the Internet, however, ads are sold by the actual number of readers that get to see them.
Also, because of the different information access models online, this means that only those stories that actually get read will generate saleable page views.
The newspaper bundles content, and in that way cross-finances. Online the paper is separated, segmented, and each article has to earn readers to make it profitable. What if the information that we value highly in democratic terms (such as political analysis, background information and commentary) turns out not to be read as often as we would like? What if it can only be produced as the result of cross-financing?
Economically, the option of multiple revenue streams means that the publishing industry as a whole will need to turn to a database model, by which generated content can be marketed and sold in different formats. This offers interesting new opportunities for the press, which has enormous advantages in its legacy of trusted content, a well organised news production model, and access to both readers and advertisers, but it also means that the press needs to invest substantially in research and development. Long-term strategies are needed and require large financial commitments, which may be hard to come up with for small individual newspapers.
At the same time, however, the Internet allows for audience involvement and for the creation of new media products. Through its low barrier to entry, it offers publishers the opportunity to develop additional revenue streams based on their core product, the collection and analysis of information. The interactivity of the medium has proven to be attractive for many, drawing the audience away from television to return to a largely text-based medium.
Even with widespread access to interactive new media – be it via the Internet or new applications such as digital television, datacasting services and other electronic means – the printed newspaper is the medium that is accessible to the highest percentage .