Newsrooms, take note: Before you crank up your staffers in pursuit of today’s stories, have them spend an hour understanding its future.
It’s not that Columbia University answers all that many questions in its analysis of the dollars — and nickels and dimes — of journalism. But along with responses from Jan Schaffer, Felix Salmon and Staci Kramer, Columbia authors Bill Grueskin, Ava Seave and Lucas Graves offer up an accessible package of stats, nuggets and case studies that smart readers will translate to tips for their own circumstances.
The 143-page report concludes with nine recommendations — and you may find a reverse read the most effective way through the document.
Here’s what stands out for me after a quick, early morning read:
- Audience: We’ve known for years that journalism’s problem is not diminished audience. The audience for news is growing dramatically, dispersing itself into multiple audiences across even more venues. The Columbia study does a good job analyzing those different audiences and, with multiple case studies, showing how some news organizations are beginning to monetize them quite effectively. Pay walls are just a small part of that story. The paper’s lead author, Bill Grueskin, was at The Wall Street Journal when its pay wall was introduced. The authors suggest journalists would be ill-served by relying too heavily on it for their financial futures.
- Advertising: Underscoring a key finding of the just-released Pew study that my colleague Rick Edmonds, wrote about yesterday, Columbia concludes that the most common form of digital advertising — banner ads — are simply not delivering the goods — or the eyeballs — to the companies paying news organizations to publish them. The report explores a range of alternatives for changing the relationship between news organizations and their advertisers. Most interesting to me is the sort of custom content — advertiser-produced content — that Forbes is experimenting with these days.
- Aggregation: If journalism organizations want a future in the news ecosystem of their communities, the authors conclude, they need to do a better job both aggregating — and having their content aggregated by — the other publishers in their midst.
Are you still with me, newsrooms? Here’s an idea for tomorrow’s morning meeting: What implications does the Columbia study hold for your news organization?