Pew’s latest annual report on the state of the news media is out and should be required reading today. It’s on the top of my stack when I get time later today, but for now a few summaries and reactions will have to suffice.
Pew provides their own guide to “key findings” in various areas, from changes in the digital world to the continuing transformation in the economics of news. Among the main points. Advertising revenue is growing, but most is going to the big boys, Google and Facebook. Some trickles down, such as through the Google ads on this blog. But you can’t make a living that way, especially in local markets.
Paywalls are in, with more appearing all the time. The Seattle Times and the Washington Post have both announced they are moving behind a subscription paywall. The movement has reached a critical mass, and the pace of conversion is likely to increase.
From a website called PandoDaily comes this observation:
Consider this sentence from Pew: “A growing list of media outlets, such as Forbes magazine, use technology by a company called Narrative Science to produce content by way of algorithm, no human reporting necessary.” This was only one sentence from Pew’s report, but it is a portentous one. Narrative Science automatically creates stories out of raw data that would otherwise have been written by human hands. More robots producing news means fewer humans needed for the task.
This follows but dramatically extends the idea of outsourcing local news to reporters on the other side of the world who check in by phone or online to get the material they need to write stories about small towns and cities in the U.S. That was bad enough. Now robots? Of course, some of today’s talking heads might as well be robots, I suppose.
And from the Washington Post, “The political media’s declining power.”
When news organizations are pushed out of the information pipeline, voters alone are left to sort through messages that are tested in focus groups and opposition attacks tailored with great specificity. And on the heels of a presidential campaign in which one candidate’s pollster said he refused to let the campaign be dictated by fact-checkers, such a strategy is growing easier to execute.
The facts are these: Campaigns and candidates have more power than ever before to frame both their positive narrative and their opponents’ negative one. And, if the Pew numbers are right, both sides are spending much more time on the negative side of the ledger — at least in 2012.
And so it goes in the world of news.