Ok. Before we start, I know this a very touchy subject. I fully believe that good journalists are worth good wages. And I sympathise with all the 14,775 newspaper employees that lost their jobs in 2009, and the 1,643 already in 2010.
Unfortunately, the new revenues no longer support the old structures. And most news organisations are realising that perpetually waiting for those new revenues to rise, will kill them if their cost structures stay the same.
So, given that journalism, in all its many varied forms and formats, is vital to democracy and provides substantial utility beyond its democratic function, how can news organisations lower the cost of journalism?
In the print world, it was pretty much impossible to tell what readers actually read in a newspaper or magazine. Now, the interaction analytics are (sometimes terrifyingly) transparent. But I spoken to more than one digital newspaper exec who have admitted that the usage stats for most articles (anything authored from the main print journalist team) are completely ignored. The editors decide what readers should read, not the other way round. Contrast this with the rapidly growing blogs such as Huffington Post and Mashable, where authors are often remunerated according to pageviews – it is the definition of success (whether right or wrong).
Anyway, all that is to say that its vital to hear what the data is saying. If certain topics or authors are not engaging their audience, perhaps your publication is better without them. And hopefully your editorial focus won’t spiral inexorably towards “The Top 10 of Paris Hilton”…
By aggregating external content in a meaningful way, publishers can reduce the cost of covering areas where they do not focus and provide additional value. This avoids the drudgery of duplication, with every publisher covering the same story in their own words, without necessarily adding value. The aggregation must provide some utility to the reader, ideally by threading stories and topics, and ranking them according to popularity, influence, and recency.
Automation & Data Products
Its a very touchy subject, but there are valuable methods to automate reporting. Several projects are in process where reporting is actually written by algorithms, using relevant sentence construction and fact inclusion. But beyond this, there are huge opportunities for data (particularly government data) to be provided by news organisations as reporting. Readers are becoming more willing to dig through data, and less respectful of journalists’ viewpoints, so why not just throw powerful data streams out through usable interfaces?
It is often overlooked because it is not public facing, but one of the best ways to lower the cost of journalism, is to empower journalists with more relevant, detailed, and qualified information. The following tools have now been adopted into most newsrooms:
- Internal search (the ability to very quickly datamine the publisher’s archive for relevant material and previous reporting.
- External search (persistent search filters to show up the breaking news stories from around the world in real-time.
- Digital personal networks (the ability to quickly source quotes and confirm rumours with company representatives via Twitter and Skype).
- Multi-platform publishing (the ability to publish directly from the print workflow into the online CMS)
Citizen Journalism / Crowd-sourcing
With every major international event that occurs, it seems that citizen journalism takes another step into the mainstream. From Twitter reports emerging out of the streets of Iran, to videoblogs during the earthquakes in South America, the world is taking notice of personal voices, as tools such as Twitter and Youtube become a protocol for mass individual reporting. Many publishers have made great strides in this area, but still the vast majority of mainstream news is produced by paid journalists. There are certain areas which are very likely to move towards the crowd-sourcing model in the next years, including sports reports and hyperlocal news. And since a lot of reporting is already been done for free, why shouldn’t publishers take advantage?
Related articles by Zemanta
- What’s eating journalism: The objectivity myth… (sluggerotoole.com)
- Future of unpaid cit-J models: Dan Gillmor and Rory Cellan-Jones (audio) (blogs.journalism.co.uk)
- How Much Of That All Important Journalism Is Really PR? (techdirt.com)
- Journalism Educators Who Get It (newspaperdeathwatch.com)
- The Dire State of the Newspaper Industry [STATS] (mashable.com)