The Future of News

Student Perspectives on the State of Journalism

News Media Consumption Among Gen Y: Implications for the News Industry

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The audio component of this story can be found here.

By Ryan Boulanger

Part Two: Applying These Lessons
Seattle’s recent loss of one of its oldest print newspapers, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, may have been a surprise to some people but it’s a trend that’s happening to major newspapers across the country.

As a result of our survey, we found that 85 percent of current college-aged students get most of their news from on-line sources – compared to 13 percent that rely on newspapers. Print newspapers have on-line counterparts that relay their content to a greater audience, using their branded name to gain trust on the Web.

Our survey also found that 88 percent of college-aged students use traditional news websites – a descendant of print newspapers – as their main source of on-line news. Blogs and other alternative news websites represented the remaining 12 percent.

Traditional news sites are trusted by far more people than other news sites, but our information also suggests that alternative news websites can be trusted, sometimes even preferred, by people within this demographic.

Most on-line newspapers currently enjoy this strong advantage of trust over alternative news sites but preferences can change over time. Newspapers need to continue covering the stories their readers deem important throughout their coverage area.

But print newspapers across the country have too much overheadto support their on-line format. Profits from print advertising are dwindling and on-line advertising can only generate a small fraction of the revenue once enjoyed by print. The U.S. newspaper industry lost $7.5 billion in advertising revenues for 2008. This model is clearly not sustainable and deep cuts are being made at newspapers across the country.

As newspapers cut their staff, they produce less content and gaps in their coverage start to emerge.  Adam Klawonn started The Zonie Report in May 2006 to cover the gaps that resulted from cuts at The Arizona Republic.

Independent journalists and alternative news sites can fill these gaps, making them into a niche market. Beat blogs are already doing this in some coverage areas, like the West Seattle Blog, and competing with traditional news sites for advertising dollars.

Consumer trust in these areas will shift toward alternative news sites as they become known and accurate sources of news. Newspapers need to prepare themselves for this shift and remain competitive. An audience can judge quality and credibility for themselves – attacking alternative media in editorials is completely unnecessary.

Newspapers need to stop reducing their content and hold their ground within their coverage areas. Their reputation for covering news in that area will become increasingly jeopardized as they continue to make cuts.

A new revenue model needs to be introduced for newspapers to regain their footing and maintain control of the news industry. Unfortunately, most of them are stuck in a situation where a very small percentage of their audience reads printed content, but a significant portion of their advertising revenue comes from their print edition. A sustainable on-line revenue model is both necessary and urgent for the news industry to survive.

By the year 2020, if on-line journalism still doesn’t have a promising source of revenue, then journalists will no longer be asking “where’s my paycheck”? They’ll have no choice but to look elsewhere for a main source of income.


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  1. […] these results mean for journalists who are looking for ways to earn a living in the future?  The second half of our story holds some of the possible conclusions. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Half a […]

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