Columbia U. study says journalists need to rethink their relationships with advertisers

New York Times | | | |

“We’re not suggesting that journalists get marching orders from advertisers,” says Columbia University's Bill Grueskin, a co-author of the 139-page report [PDF] on digital news economics. (Read the introduction.) “We are suggesting that journalists get a much better understanding of why so many advertising dollars have left the traditional news media business.” The report -- titled "The Story So Far: What We Know About the Business of Digital Journalism" -- recommends that journalists “gain a fuller appreciation for how advertisers now reach their customers via social media, new-media ads and search engine optimization,” and that large news outlets consider creating or re-creating separate digital staffs, “particularly on the business side.” Brian Stelter writes:

The report's authors take a dim view of online subscriptions to news, cautioning that news sites "now should have very limited expectations for its success -- at least on the Web."

They are more bullish on the prospects of subscriptions for mobile access. They write, "If publishers really hope to expunge the 'original sin' of giving away content free online, they may be best positioned to do so not on the computers where they first gave away their wares, but on mobile devices that offer a more welcoming environment."

Felix Salmon says some of the report's recommendations "are platitudinous slogans," while others "are smart and sensible."

If you’re a legacy media organization, for instance, don’t just shovel your legacy-media content onto the web and expect it to take off: successful websites need to have a webby sensibility, and tend to be separated from the legacy outfit. They also need to push back against the tyranny of the CPM. And don’t expect to make lots of money from a paywall. You won’t. And if you think you will, that’s a good sign you don’t understand how your business works.

More on the report from Jan Schaffer, Staci Kramer, and Bill Mitchell.

  • Jim Romenesko

    From 1999 to 2011, Jim Romenesko maintained the Romenesko page for the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based non-profit school for journalists. Poynter hired him in August of 1999, after seeing his, a hobby site he started in May of 1999.


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