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It is obvious that online has changed journalism in many ways, especially when millions of people are online throughout the day. If you are wondering how exactly it has changed the economics of news a good link to check out is Paul Bradshaw‘s blog post  which attempts to make a list that has most of the important and useful points.Rather then make a long, dull post about each bullet point it is best you read it yourself and form your own opinion. In this post I will use one bullet point I agree with and one I  disagree with. The first point to tackle is:

6. Devaluation of certain types of journalism –
If a reader wants a book review most will go to Amazon. Music? Your social networks, Last.fm, iTunes or MySpace. Sport – any forum. Anyone producing journalism in those or similar areas faces a real issue.

In point 6 – Bradshaw suggests that journalism, when it comes to reviews or opinions, are losing strength. I agree wholeheartedly with this (although it would have been better to use forums to make his point rather than Amazon reviews because they are a  mixed bag of unreliable or one-sided complaints). The reason this point is important is simply because of the fact that although journalists are professional writers, when it comes to reviews, they are at a disadvantage because products that they review for a week or two cannot compare to forum reviewers that spend a lot more time with a product. Journalists also have the disadvantage of time pressure in which they cannot thoroughly focus on a product because there are other reviews to make or they need to be the first to post a review as soon as the product is released. And finally there is the simple fact that people trust the opinions of several others in a rating system rather than an opinion of a lone journalist.

The next point to discuss is:

4. Reduced cost of news gathering and production –
The technologies were dropping in price long before the Internet – satellite technologies , desktop publishing. But the web – and now mobile – technology has reduced the cost of news gathering, production and distribution to almost nil. And new tools are being made all the time that reduce the cost in time even further. When publishing is as easy as making a phone call, that causes problems for any business that has to maintain or pay debts on costly legacy production systems.

Now this point is a little misleading because it seems to suggest that online is a perfect profit for journalists. It is true that journalism online has reduced the cost of production and distribution to almost ‘nil’ but to say the cost of news gathering has been reduced to ‘nil’ seems a little too extreme. Journalists are still needed to not only gather news but also check it – this will always be the case whether online or not. Despite the fact that it is faster to check sources through the Internet, online sources have proven in the past to be too unreliable to rely solely on and checking online sources through other online sources has not always worked out (because both real news and false news can spread at an alarming rate and be presented as fact in more than one website). This unreliability has often resulted in many journalists that do not leave the comfort of their computer to be sued (especially in the area of celebrities in which false and true rumors are fused together). There is also the fact that even if online saves money on these factors – it struggles to actually make money itself. As my previous post suggested free news is always available and therefore makes it hard to make a strong profit out of and the idea of paywalls (paying to see news online) contradicts a journalist’s aim to have  a large audience because people resort to free news sites instead. Journalists are spending less but also making less.

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3 thoughts on “Want to know how online has changed the economics of news?

  1. Thanks for reviewing the post, and it’s good to see you drawing on concrete examples. I think you misunderstand my point about costs. You imply that there are extra costs in newsgathering because information has to be verified. That suggests that when journalists gathered information before the internet, they did not have to verify it. If so, I’d be very worried. If not, then there is no extra cost (and in fact, verifying information online is also cheaper: you have more information to go on).

    Also, if something costs less but makes less money, that is not a contradiction – in fact, it’s an expected outcome (if you can produce something for less, then you can charge less for it, or for advertising against it, and still make money).

    There’s a separate issue here of news making less money online. That has nothing to do with costs, or mean that those points are somehow flawed. It has more to do with competition: put simply, news websites have failed to compete when it comes to selling advertising. I won’t go into all the reasons here – but perhaps something to follow up on.

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    • I agree that ‘contradict’ was the wrong word to use – guess it happens when you rush a post so I’ve changed the word to misleading. But I never said the cost of newsgathering is higher – just that it has not been reduced to almost nil as you suggested (re-read that section)

      Also the money earned online and the cost spent making it are different things – I agree with you … but the way it was phrased made it seem like you were suggesting online journalism is a pure profit compared to print because your saving money without sacrificing anything- so I thought I would point this out for any reader that isn’t well-versed in the financial side of journalism.

      Money spent and money earned are two-sides of the same coin and without mentioning both it was a little misleading as to what was being suggested – though your reply helped clear this up.
      Thanks

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