"Journalism and the New Media Media Ecology: Who Will Pay the Messengers?"
What follows is an honest attempt to document a two-day conference at Yale Law School, "Journalism and the New Media Ecology: Who Will Pay the Messenger?" The reporter is Bill Densmore of the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism. As with a similar in-the-moment report from a gathering at Harvard University two weeks ago, I make no warranty about the accuracy of direct quotes -- captured on the fly -- but make a promise to have supplied appropriate context as best as possible. The sessions are being videotaped. Consult that source for the final history of this event.
The Yale Law and Media Project also provided some detailed running notes of the conference, starting with an overview page.
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- Watch LIVE VIDEO STREAM (right side of page)
- What will support news?
- The collaborative idea
- MORNING SESSION: The overview
- AFTERNOON SESSION: The public option
- AFTERNOON SESSION: What is to be done locally?
- 5 p.m. SESSION: New business models / LAMP notes Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
- The Changing Ecology of News Media (Saturday opening
-  / Yale LAMP summary
- SATURDAY AFTERNOON: What about public subsidies? / Yale LAMP summary
- SATURDAY FINAL: View from the newsroom / Yale LAMP summary
The new news ecology -- who will create information useful to citizens?
Dean Robert Post of the Yale Law School opens with thoughts about the new news ecology and he asks, in effect, who will create information useful to citizens in a democracy? He thinks the law and media program of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Scripps League fund have helped with funding for this two-day gathering. There appear to be roughly 150 people in the auditorium here at Yale Law School in New Haven, Conn.
"We have a much more serious problem confronting us, we have a collapse of the business structures" of journalism," says Post. "We have to understand the values that we want to use to reconstruct the ecology of media in the next couple of decades . . . this is a topic that is close to my heart." He asks: Whatare the values that we should be seeding in the new media ecology? He says the key answer is "democratic self governance . . . what does it mean in a homogeneous country is necessary to govern ourselves."
Other points Post makes:
- Citizens in a democracy need access to common information -- that provision is compatible with many forms of media. "But in a democracy it is not really (just) information that needs to circulate .... it has to not really be circulated, it has to be created and the creation of information for us becomes a very serious problem in a democracy."
- What about the journalist as expert? "If you just circulate information you have a problem of assimilating which information is important." Too much information, he notes, is meaningless.
Jack Balkin, director of the Yale Information Society Project now welcomes us: "I want you to think of yourselves as servants of democracy . . . the questions we are raising heretoday are not about how you please shareholdres or not even about how you get the next grant ... the questions we consider here today are about the sole of American democracy."
Pew / Rainie: A snapshot of Internet usage change
Lee Rainie of the Pwe Internet & American Life Project -- the premier U.S. researcher of consumer information consumption trends -- provides an overview of the changing world. He presentation includes a slide presentation that I'll obtain or link to later. He ticks off a set of changes by number and I've not gotten them all coherently here yet. But here are some highlights.
The web in 2000
In May of 2000, less than half of Americans were connected to the web. Only 5% had broadband at honme, 50 percent owned a cell phone, nobody connected wirelessly and connections were slow and stationary and built around your own computer. The "could" as a concept hardly existed.
The web in 2008
Now 79% of adults use the web, including more than 90% of teen-agers, 63% overall have broadband, 85% own a cell phone, 56% connect to the Internet wirelessly, and there are fast, mobile connections built around outside serves and storage. Now the "cloud" dominates.
The audience for news has shrunk, it has grown from 14% in 1998 to 19% now. And it has strikingly risen among the young. About 34% of younger consumers say they get no news a day. There has been an 8 minute drop in daily news consumption in the study period. The audience is generally losing faith in news organizations.
Consumers "Think the internet is a completely different news ecology from those other platforms . . . they are thinking it is surrounded by other material . . . which makes participating or consuming news very different from other platforms . . . the Internet has overtaken newspapers as one of the sources that people cite."
Raine says the rhythms of premium users . . . are now well ahead in saying Internet has surpassed newspaper, and is now rivaling their use of television.
- Fifth reality of audience change -- it has become widely segmented.
- Sixth -- It is grazing for news now, it is not an appointment activity any longer.
- 10th -- Platforms are blending. Half the population still only gets news from traditional sources.
- 11th -- It's participatory -- three quarters of teen-agers are creating not just consuming.
- 12th -- News has become participatory. Ten percent of those with social networking profiles get news through those sites. Young adults participate in the news because "it is a social lubricant." They don't want to be out of touch.
Comscore / Dennen: Some year-to-year trends examined
Now we're hearing Steven Dennen, a vice president with Comscore, a commercial consumer demographics intelligence firm. FOur themes:
- Looking at the consumer from a macro level.
- News audiences are skewing older faster than the overall Internet population
- The importance of search, sharing and syndication
- What's going on with display advertising; opportunities for newspapers
The macro consumer view
(Dennen also has a slide deck we'll trying to find and link to. I'm picking up some highlights as fast as I can type)
- Time spent with pages is down over a year ago.
- The top 10 sites account for 43 percent of online time spent and 37 percent of pages consumed, holding steady from a year ago.
- The top 100 sites are holding steady in terms of overall share of time and pages.
Page views at newspaper sites in decline
- Pages per visitor for sites within the news/information category and the newspapres sub-category are down 14 percent and 3 percently respectively. But other competitive categories are seeing growth in pages per visitor. For newspaper sites it is just over a page per day viewed.
- The news/information audience among persons 25-34 and 35-49 has come more in line with the overall internet population vs. the last year, but vistors over 55 to those sites has increased over the last year.
- Web only news sites are up 35 percent year to year; sites with a combined print relationship are down 13 percent year to year.
Consideration of the role of search in news consumption
- A typical top U.S. newspaper site gets 32 percent of its traffic from search, top e-mail sites, Facebook and from the Yahoo! home page.
- Twitter has become a news source for many online consumers. Unlike other forms of media, social media results in average consumption increases as audience size grows. The Twitter audience is skewing younger vs. earlier this year. It started as an older audience.
The advertising side of the equation
- News/information category accounts for 5.5 percdent of all ad-supproted page veiws, 6.2 percent of display ad imprssions and 111.6% of display ad spend. They have more ads per page and are able to command a higher CPM than average web sites.
Now Denne is comparing advertising metrics across a typical TV news site, a portal news channel and a newspaper site. These three sites are comparable in terms of unique visitors and ads per page. The difference is in the number of pages an average user looks at. A newspaper site pulls in about $130 a month per unique vistor.
Said Dennen concerning newspaper sites: "If they lost three quarters of their audience and went to a completely paid model and charged $1 a month, they would still be able to double their revenue."
Later, during a Q&A, Dennen elaborated. He said putting up a pay wall is one extreme: "If you ere able to keep a quarter of that audience and charge them $1 a month ... I'm not advocating that they do that, I think the right answer is somewhere in the middle." "Pepole are willing to pay for great service of terms of who I am. "
Jay Rosen: Real question is 'who will subsidize the messenger'
Now Jay Rosen, of New York University, make three points about he origins of journalism, which he traces back to Amsterdam merchants commissioning "reporters" to tell them what was going on in the trading world in Venice and elsewhere.
Rosen says he is "annoyed" by the title of the conference. News to the public has always been subsidized. "So the question should have been, who will subsidize the messenger."
- Rich people have always subsidized the news if it is information they need to do business. "If all you want to know who will pay pepole to collect information, rich people, emperors will pay. And they always have."
- In the Amsterdam-Venice world of private journalism there was a feedback loop, directly instructing the correspondent. "The receiver of news could keep news connected to interests. And that instruction system worked very well because it was easy to report back to one person." That hasn't been as easy in public journalism.
(Writer's observation: It it possible that social news networks can reintroduce that feedback loop on a one-to-one basis)
Rosen continues: "What we really care about is not that somebody pays someone somewhere for news . . . it is news that is distributed to the public about matters of public importance. That puzzle is a lot more difficult and a lot more interesting. What we care aobut is the surveillance of power and accountability journalism and informing over our horizon. "
Some possible source sources of 'subsidy'
Rosen's list: Foundations, entertainment, advertising. Related businesses or unrelated businesses. The most passionate users can subsidize. So can clever spinoff businesses. But even this list ignores other ways of solving the problem, he says.
Rosen makes a key point. Is it possible that the values, purposes and principles of journalism can be met for society by mechanisms other than journalism as we've known it?
"Maybe we need to find the sources of funds to pay investigative reporters to dig into earmarks," he says. "But maybe if we just make earmarks open and transparent ... tranparency can elminate some of the dark corners that reporters had to penetrate . . . (or) how do we rediscover the self-informing public, before there was a modern life."
Wasted reportage at the World Series?
Rosen says there were some 31 reporters sent by news organizations to baseball's World Series -- an event they could have watched on television. "Maybe we shouldn't be paying those messengers who provide a redundant service."
And a challenge of public funding of journalism: "If taxpayers are going to fund journalism, than how do we make journalism accountable to taxpayers?"
last solution, a mystery: Trust in the professional press has been dropping since 1976.
Tom Rosenstiel: Newspapers probably won't reinvent business
Rosenstiel seeks the key problem for the news(paper) industry as a revenue problem, and the key problem for the broadcast industry as an audience problem. He says of newspapers: "The industry itself is ill-prepared to reinvent it's revenue model. It doesn't know how to do it. And it probably isn't going to do it."
Tweets of Rosenstiel's talk:
- JoanJHuang: Pew's Tom Rosenstiel: All newsrooms will eventually be niche newsrooms. "Do what you do best and borrow the rest" #kmedia
- Big effect of all of these changes -- the press, when it was an intermediary for the public that was unique. The new technologies have "unbundled the news. As a news consumer, I get to choose the content that I want almost story by story."
- It is not turning people into citizen journalists en masse. We are assembling our own diet, but few people are actually writing blogs on a regular basis about public life.
- Will values transfer to the new culture of unbundled news?
"Do we need fulltime professionals if the people who are monitoring and surveilling are at it 18 hours a day or more -- or are we comfortable if the journalists who monitor them are at it part time?"
Rosenstiel ends with one more idea: The journalism metaphor of the 20th century was that of the "gatekeeper." He says that even if journalism as we know it goes away, "embedded in that rule were several functions and it is these (six) functions that we worry about surviving."
- 1. Authenticator -- this role is becoming more important. "We need journalists to be authenticators, or someone to be authenticators for us so our discussion universe is based on a base of fact.
- 2. Sensemakers -- This job is harder as facts are in greater supply, creating knowledge from them is harder.
- 3. Aggregator -- A smart aggregator. Google may icnreasinlyg not be sufficnet. It gives too much.
- 4. Forum Leader -- Bringing the public together around civic issues.
- 5. watchdog - The investigative expose producer
- 6. Witness -- to simply bear witness, to show up at the meetings. "Do we need professionals to do that? Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe technology can do that in combination with professional journalism."
DISCUSSION: What is real function of newsroom in a community?
Rosenstiel: It's not to write stories. "It is to assimilate and synthesize knowledge about that community -- geographic or interest -- and then find ways to disseminate that knowledge." And Rosensteil says that is a broader function than the old newsroom and their are businesses that could be created around that broader function. You may need a professional at the mayor's office, he says, but maybe not in other places where there isn't as much spin to unpack.
Rosen: Have to acknowledge that major news organizations weren't necessarily "covering" their community in the ways they really needed to be covered (as, for example, the six elements cited above by Rosenstiel?).
Rosenstiel: "We just can't have too much faith in that webcast of the public function of meetings is sufficient."
Rosen: "I don't think it's sufficient but it is better than nothing."
Rosenstiel: "I think news literacy (education) ... would have a much bigger impact than trying to teach everybody to be their own journalist."
Rosen: Notes the challenge of how to avoid the splintering of news between the haves and the have nots -- those who can afford to pay for their news and those who can't. (See: Tom Stites talk from 2006 on this point.)
The ideal news service: Personalization, convenience?
In response to questions, Rosen and Dennen traded thoughts about the idea news service for them:
- Rosen said he's frustrated that no news organization comes to him to find out what he wants. "There is no news provider right now who will come to me and say: Jay, what are the things you want us to inform you about? Where is the cmpany that will let me say to them: 'I want ot be informed about Greenwich Village, the New York Knicks,' and I check all the boxes and this imaginary company says, 'OK we are going to keep you informed about all that stuff.' Where is all that stuff?" He says the problem is that today's news organizations "are not interested in informing me, they are interested in continue to sell me their products."
- Dennen -- The marketing opportunity is in inviting people to pay for convenience and customization and "getting content delivered to me in a mobile device, so that I can easily share that informaiton with other people . . . I think there is value of news as a service."