Message from Keith
Our newsletter took a short break during the Christmas and New Year holiday period. So you will see this edition is jam-packed with lots of varied happenings at the Centre.
Unfortunately, there was no hiatus from the bad news roiling the media industry, particularly in the United States. Since the start of 2019, more than 2,000 journalists were laid off in the latest round of industry contractions, with the pain spread equally to traditional media outlets and new digital startups alike.
In the last few weeks, America’s largest newspaper chain, Gannett, which owns more than 1,000 daily and weekly newspapers including USA Today, announced it would be eliminating about 400 jobs.
Online upstarts like BuzzFeed, Vice Media and The Huffington Post, owned by Verizon, also announced steep new job cuts, eliminating hundreds of positions, amid signs that journalism’s promised digital future may be a long way off. These layoffs were especially distressing since these digital-first companies supposedly represented the profitable path forward for the struggling industry.
The fact that the struggles have also hit new media companies such as BuzzFeed underscores how in the changing media ecosystem, few newsgathering outlets can successfully compete for digital advertising dollars with the tech giants Facebook and Google. It is clear that another business model is needed.
That might mean a subscription model, and outlets like The Washington Post, under owner Jeff Bezos, The New York Times and the Financial Times are showing that people will pay for high-quality journalism. Or it might be a non-profit mode, and there are a few successful examples to point to, like ProPublica in the U.S., the Korea Center for Investigative Journalism and the Swiss digital magazine Republik, which through crowdsourcing managed to gain 3,000 subscribers and raise more than US$750,000 in its first seven hours online, even before publishing its first article.
The successful models out there tell us one thing; the industry may be in flux, but people are still hungry for in-depth, high-quality journalism and they are willing to pay for it. Figuring out how to turn that demand into a successful business model is the challenge we all face in the future.
Director of the JMSC