Category Archives: Business of journalism

What will news look like after advertising?

The most recent round of year-end predictions is out on the Nieman Lab site, always full of really interesting and inspiring reads. Joshua Benton has done an amazing job again.

I wrote mine on the question of what news will look like after advertising. Full piece here.

The link between advertising and news that has for so long provided so much of the money invested in professional journalism is coming apart. […]

Beyond the job cuts, this presents journalists with a challenge and an opportunity.

The challenge is that a profession that has taken pride in its detachment from commercial considerations will increasingly be asked to be more directly involved in developing new potentially profitable products.

The opportunity is to rethink what value looks like when the business models underlying news production change. At end of the day, most journalists would probably rather work for their readers than for their advertisers.

How are Indian newspapers handling their digital transition?

thumbnailBy some estimates, India is adding something like 250,000 new internet users every day right now, driven by the spread of cheap smartphone and (often limited) mobile web access. While still limited by uneven infrastructure and by deep inequality and poverty, digital media are growing very rapidly in India.

How are Indian newspapers handling their transition to this new environment? Their print business is still growing (especially in Hindi and vernacular languages, less so in English), and they have the advantage of being able to learn from experiences of newspapers elsewhere.

That is the question Zeenab Aneez, Sumandro Chattapadhyay, Vibodh Parthasarathi, and I took on in a recently published Reuters Institute Report called Indian Newspapers’ Digital Transition.

We focus here specifically on changes in newsroom organization and journalistic work-practices. In the future, I hope we can do more work on the business strategy of Indian newspapers (most seem to offer news for free, and base their digital business on dispay advertising, a model that others in other parts of the world have struggled with).

The report is produced in collaboration with the Centre for Internet and Society and is in a way a companion piece to the report on Digital Journalism Start-Ups in India that Arijit Sen and I published earlier this year.

Full report available here and executive summary below.

***

Indian Newspapers’ Digital Transition

By Zeenab Aneez, Sumandro Chattapadhyay, Vibodh Parthasarathi, and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen.

Published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford.

Produced in collaboration with the Centre for Internet and Society.

This report examines the digital transition underway at three leading newspapers in India, the Dainik Jagran in Hindi, English-language Hindustan Times, and Malayala Manorama in Malayalam. Our focus is on how they are changing their newsroom organisation and journalistic work to expand their digital presence and adapt to a changing media environment.

The background for the report is the rapid and continued growth in digital media use in India. Especially since 2010, internet use has grown at an explosive pace, driven by the spread of mobile web access, also outside large urban areas and the more affluent and highly educated English-language minority that have historically represented a large part of India’s internet users. Some analysts estimate more than 30% of Indians had some form of internet access by the end of 2015 (IAMAI-IMRB, 2015). With this growth has come a perceptible shift of audience attention and advertising investment away from legacy media like print and television and towards digital media. This shift has been accompanied by the launch of a number of new digital media start-ups in India and, especially, the growing role of large international technology companies investing in the Indian market.

These developments present Indian newspapers with new challenges and opportunities. Print circulation and advertising is still growing in India, but more slowly than in the past, and especially the English-language market seems saturated and ripe for the shift towards digital media that has happened elsewhere. From 2014 to 2015, the Indian advertising market grew by 13%. Print grew 8%, but English-language newspaper advertising only half of that. Digital advertising, in contrast, grew by 38%, and is projected to continue to grow for years to come as digital media become more central to India’s overall media environment (KPMG-FICCI, 2016).

If they want to secure their long-term future and continued editorial and commercial success, Indian newspapers have to adapt to these changes. The three case studies in this report represent three different examples of how major newspapers are navigating this transition.

Based on over 30 interviews conducted with senior management, editors, and rank-and-file reporters from three major newspapers, as well as other senior journalists and researchers who have wider experience in the Indian news industry, plus secondary sources including industry reports and academic research, we show the following.

  • All three newspapers are proactively investing in digital media technology and expertise, and adapting their editorial priorities, parts of their daily workflow, distribution strategies, and business model to the rise of digital media. Tools like Chartbeat and Dataminr are now commonplace; search engine optimisation, social media optimisation, and audience analytics are part of everyday work; and some are experimenting with new formats (Hindustan Times was a launch partner for Facebook Instant Articles; Manorama Online has produced both Virtual Reality and 360 videos, an Apple watch app, and is on Amazon Echo).
  • Given that the print newspaper industry is still growing in India, especially in Indian-language markets, these newspapers are innovating from a position of relative strength in comparison to their North American and European counterparts. However, this is done with the awareness that that print is becoming a relatively less important part of the Indian media environment, and digital media more important. Short-term, reach and profits come from print, but longer term, all have to build a strong digital presence to succeed editorially and commercially.
  • All three newspapers aim to do this by building on the assets they have as legacy media organisations, and trying to leverage their brand reputation, audience reach, and editorial resources to maintain an edge over digital news start-ups and international news providers. Their legacy, however, offers not only assets, but also liabilities. As successful incumbents, all of them struggle with the inertia that comes from established organisational structures and professional cultures. To change their organisation and culture, and thus more effectively combine new technologies and skills with existing core competences, each newspaper is not only investing in digital media and personnel, but also trying to change at least parts of the existing newspaper to adapt to an increasingly digital media environment.
  • They do this in different ways. At Dainik Jagran and Malayala Manorama, the focus has been on building up separate digital operations at Jagran.com and Manorama Online, apart from the printed newspaper itself. At the Hindustan Times, in contrast, the aim has been to integrate print and digital in a joint operation working across platforms and channels. Dainik Jagran and Malayala Manoroma have thus focused mostly on building up new digital assets, whereas the Hindustan Times has been transforming existing assets to work across platforms. At Dainik Jagran and Malayala Manorama, much of the push for change has come from management, whereas there has been a stronger editorial involvement at the Hindustan Times, and a greater attempt to engage rank-and-file reporters through training sessions and other initiative designed to demonstrate not only the commercial importance, but also the editorial potential, of digital media.
  • All three newspapers have found that expanding their digital operations requires investment of money in new technologies and in staff with new skills. But it is also clear that this is not enough. Investment in technology has to be accompanied by a change in organisation and culture to effectively leverage existing assets in a digital media environment. In their attempts to do this, the most significant barriers have been a perceived cultural hierarchy, deeply ingrained especially in the newsroom, that print journalism is somehow inherently superior to digital journalism, and a lack of effective synergy between editorial leaders and managers, often combined with a lack of technical know-how. Money can buy new tools and bring in new expertise, but it cannot on its own change culture, ensure synergy, or align the organisation with new priorities. This requires leadership and broad-based change. Long-term, senior editors, management, and rank-and-file reporters will have to work and change together to secure Indian newspapers’ role in an increasingly digital media environment.

Digital media thus present Indian newspapers with challenges and opportunities similar to those newspapers have faced elsewhere. Only they face these from a position of greater strength, because of the continued growth in their print business, and with the benefit of having seen how things have developed in more technologically developed markets. We hope this report will help them navigate the digital transition ahead.

 

New report on digital-born news media in Europe

nicholls-thumbnailEven though digital-born news media like Slate and Salon, El Confidencial in Spain, and global players like the Huffington Post have been around for more than ten years, and every year seem to bring new digital-born news start-ups from Mic.com to Les Jours and El Español, there has been surprisingly little research systematically mapping these players, their editorial priorities, distribution strategies, and funding models.

A new Reuters Institute report by Tom Nicholls, Nabeelah Shabbir and myself builds on previous efforts by the Project for Excellent in Journalism, the Tow Center at Columbia, the SubMoJour project (and indeed ourselves with our work on Europe and India) by analyzing 12 different digital-born news media across France, Germany, Spain, and the UK.

We find that most digital-born news media sites in Europe are motivated by an ambition to do quality journalism, based on a lean cost structure, and have a pragmatic approach to new technology. The founders are normally journalists, often ex-newspaper journalists, and rarely come from a technology or finance background.

They are thus quite different from the kind of VC-backed, tech-oriented, aggresively expansionist image the word “start-up” brings to mind.

We identify three different kinds of digital-born news media (1) domestic for-profits like El Confidencial and Mediapart, (2) domestic non-profits like Correctiv and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, and (3) international for-profit players like BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post.

Interestingly, while the international for-profit players all pursue global scale and offer news for free at the point of consumption, supported by advertising (display and native), our research suggests more and more domestic for-profits are moving away from the free, ad-supported approach and aim to build much more diverse funding models, often including a significant element of reader revenues.

Domestic digital-born news media seem stronger in those countries – like France and Spain – where legacy media are weaker, not in those – like Germany and the UK – where the digital media market is most developed. This is in line with what Nico Bruno and I found in our 2012 study of these issues.
Our research also suggests that many of the issues that these digital-born news media face are very similar to some of the key ones confronting legacy news media: how do you develop a clear editorial identity in a very crowded environment, how do you master distribution as media use is  more and more distributed and intermediated by platform companies, and how do you fund your work when the advertising market is so challenging for content producers?
The full report is available for free download here.

New Report: Private Sector Media and Digital News

cornia-thumbnailSeptember 30, we published our latest RISJ Report, “Private Sector Media and Digital News”, focusing on how legacy news organisations in Europe are dealing with the business of digital news. The lead author is Alessio Cornia, who worked on the report together with Annika Sehl and myself. The full PDF is freely available here and the executive summary is below.

The report looks at how they are addressing recent developments such as the rise of social media, the move from desktop internet to an increasingly mobile web, and the growing importance of online video. It examines 25 different newspapers and commercial broadcasters in six European countries are adapting to an evolving media environment on the basis of interviews conducted with executives, senior managers and editors in Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and the UK.

It shows how legacy news organisations are investing in a wide variety of digital news initiatives to reach new audiences and build new business models, but most of their revenues still come from traditional print and television operations, even after almost 20 years of investment in digital news.

Executive Summary

In this report, we examine how private sector legacy news organisations like newspapers and broadcasters in six European countries (Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and the United Kingdom) are adapting to an evolving digital media environment.

The analysis is based on 54 interviews conducted between April and July 2016 primarily with executives, senior managers, and editors from a strategic sample of 25 newspapers and commercial broadcasters across Europe, as well as on survey data from the Reuters Institute Digital News Report and secondary sources.

We show that:

  • Newspapers and broadcasters, sometimes criticised for their conservatism, are investing in a wide variety of new digital initiatives to reach new audiences and generate new revenues. All the organisations covered see audiences moving from offline media to online media – quickly in the case of print to digital, and (thus far) more slowly in the case of television to digital. All aim to make a similar move to retain the audience connection upon which both their editorial impact and their business models depend.
  • In all the countries covered, private sector legacy news organisations reach more people with news than public service media, and more people get news online from newspapers and commercial broadcasters than get news via social media.
  • Despite their growing online reach, our interviews suggest 80 to 90% of revenues in most newspapers still come from print – even after years of decline in print advertising and circulation and almost 20 years of investment in digital media. Broadcasters generally have an even smaller share of digital revenues, primarily because their legacy operations have not yet been affected by the rise of online media to the same extent, but also because they have often been less focused on building a business around digital news.
  • As revenues from legacy operations are generally declining (print) or at best stable (broadcast) and digital revenues still limited, the resources for investments in digital initiatives generally continue to come from cross-subsidies and/or cost-cutting elsewhere in each organisation.
  • In terms of the business of digital news, interviewees highlight the following challenges when it comes to advertising:
    • the dominant role of large technology companies like Google and Facebook that attract a large share of online advertising;
    • the low average revenues per user, especially on the mobile web;
    • the growing number of people who use ad-blockers.
  • The challenges around advertising mean that more and more newspapers are moving to various forms of pay models, with the exception of a few high-profile titles with very large audiences. Only a minority of online news users have been willing to pay so far, but interviewees are cautiously optimistic that the number will grow.
  • Commercial broadcasters are generally seeking to replicate the television model of advertising-supported content free at the point of consumption in their approach to digital media. For many, news is a very small part of their overall business.
  • Beyond the turn to pay models, private sector legacy news organisations (especially newspapers) are exploring other alternative sources of revenue to supplement display advertising and subscription, including:
    • the launch of new verticals (content offerings beyond the organisations’ main brands), repackaged content products, and sections aimed at cultivating specific audiences more effectively;
    • investment in native advertising and branded content activities that are more effectively differentiated from generic display advertising;
    • diversification with a move into e-commerce, business-to-business services, and offline activities including events and merchandising.
  • Social media enable news organisations to reach a wider public, in particular younger people and other audiences who do not normally come direct to their sites or apps, but also imply a number of challenges related to editorial control, brand recognition, audience data, audience loyalty, and monetisation.
  • Many news organisations covered here are experimenting with distributed content formats (e.g. Facebook Instant Articles and Snapchat Discover), and see potential for synergy between publishers and platforms. Most selectively engage but want to evaluate the first results in term of reach and revenue before they decide how much to engage and with what. Other news organisations, in particular in France and Germany, have been more reluctant so far to distribute their content through third-party platforms and aim to be more self-reliant.
  • News organisations are addressing the growth of smartphone use by adapting their content to mobile devices, creating dedicated teams, adopting mobile-first approaches and focusing on the development of their news apps. However, the mobile advertising market is still much less developed than the desktop advertising market, and this represents a central challenge for the business of mobile news.
  • Online video advertising is growing fast and several news organisations are therefore investing in online video production and curation, strengthening their online video teams, experimenting with new formats and technologies (e.g. virtual reality, 360-degree, and social video), and seeking new ways to monetise online video news.
  • All our interviewees expect to see audiences and advertising continue to move from offline to online media, and expect to see the digital media environment itself continue to change, driven by evolving forms of use, new technologies, and initiatives from large technology companies. Individual organisations are adapting to this with varying degrees of success, but no clear generally applicable model(s) for sustainable digital news production have been developed so far. Every organisation examined is experimenting and forging its own path, seeking a balance between exploiting legacy operations, building digital operations, and exploring the opportunities ahead. Experimentation and exploration are an uncertain business, but encouraging in themselves – it is because of their decision to invest in the future that newspapers and commercial broadcasters continue to be central to an increasingly digital media environment.

This report is the first of a series of annual reports that will focus specifically on how European private sector legacy news organisations are adapting to the rise of digital media.

2016 Digital News Report out

Ck-emQXXEAE-2rG.jpgThe 2016 Reuters Institute Digital News Report is now out, surveying online news users across 26 countries with a combined population of around 1.3 billion.

It’s the fifth year we’ve conducted the survey, working with a wide ranger of partners and sponsors from all over the world.

As always, our report documents that there are important differences in how digital news is developing even within otherwise relatively similar high income democracies.

But there are some key commonalities across most markets identified in the main report by lead author Nic Newman working with Richard Fletcher, David Levy, and myself.

  1. The increasing  importance of social media, especially Facebook, for how people find and access news.
  2. The rapid growth of mobile news use, driven especially by smartphone.
  3. The use of online video for news growing less rapidly than publishers and platforms investing heavily in this format might have hoped for.
  4. An evolving set of challenges around the business of journalism, with the move to a more distributed environment, the rise of mobile, and the spread of ad-blockers adding to existing challenges–though the incremental growth in the number of people subscribing and the continued relevance of brands give some reasons for optimism.
  5. A mixed picture when it comes to people’s trust in news and the value they see in editorial curation versus for example personalized recommendations.

My one-liner on the development? Some winners, many losers.

The full report is available here.

The digitalnewsreport.org website offers interactive graphics, more essays, underlying data, as well as previous years’ reports.

This video summarize the main points in 2 minutes and 15 seconds (!).

And this slideshare provides a fuller overview of trends across different countries.

The Digital News Report in the wild

One of the most interesting things about working on the report is the opportunity to take it  on the road and discuss it with journalists, people from the news media, technology companies, media regulators, academics, and others.

We and our partners have organized events around the report in a range of countries including not only the UK and the US, but also Australia, Austria, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain (with more to come!).

On YouTube, you can find videos of some of the presenetations and discussions, including from our London launch event, where Nic Newman presented the report and discussed it with a panel including David Pemsel, Chief Executive Officer, Guardian Media Group, and Executive Chair, Guardian News & Media; John McAndrew, Director of Content, Sky News; Katie Vanneck-Smith, Chief Customer Officer & Global Managing Director, International Dow Jones; and Stephen Hull, Editor-in-Chief, Huffington Post UK. See the full video from the London launch here.

In New York, I presented the report at an event hosted by the Tow Center at the Columbia Journalism School, and discussed the findings with a panel including  the Tow Center Director Emily Bell, Huffington Post Executive Editor Liz Heron, Dow Jones Chief Innovation Officer Edward Roussell, and Vivian Schiller. See the full video from the New York launch here (first 1 hour and 45 minutes is about the DNR, the rest a very interesting presentation by Claire Wardle of ongoing Tow Center research).

Coverage of the 2016 Digital News Report

The report has been covered by a wide range of news media across the world, and a couple of examples can be found here from the Columbia Journalism Review, the Economist, the Financial Times, the Guardian, Journalism.co.uk, the MediaBriefing, the Nieman Labs blog and many, many more. Very pleased to note that the Hindustan Times picked it up! You can also listen to Nic Newman discussing the report on the BBC’s Media Show here and if you watched the BBC World News Channel June 15 when we launched, you may even have caught a climpse of me discussing the changing ways  in which young people get news.

BBC_RKN

New edited book on local journalism out

Local journalismLocal Journalism: the decline of newspapers and the rise of digital media, has just been published by I.B. Tauris. It contains a range of analysis of local news media ecosystems, relations between local journalists and various other actors  in local communities, and of hyperlocal news sites across a range of high income democracies in the Western Europe and North America.

I edited this book because local journalism is important, because it is often overlooked by academics as well as in discussions around the future of journalism, and because the contributors to the book had some really interesting things to say about how local journalism is developing, including in terms of differences and similarities across various countries.

The first chapter is available for free download here, and the book can be purchased through the usual routes including the publisher or Amazon.

Full description, nice words of praise from Bob Franklin and David Ryfe, as well as the list of contributors and the table of contents all below.

Local Journalism: the decline of newspapers and the rise of digital media

Edited by: Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

For more than a century, local journalism has been taken almost for granted. But the twenty-first century has brought major challenges. The newspaper industry that has historically provided most local coverage is in decline and it is not yet clear whether digital media will sustain new forms of local journalism.

This book provides an international overview of the challenges facing changing forms of local journalism today. It identifies the central role that diminished newspapers still play in local media ecosystems, analyses relations between local journalists and politicians, government officials, community activists and ordinary citizens, and examines the uneven rise of new forms of digital local journalism. Together, the chapters present a multi-faceted portrait of the precarious present and uncertain future of local journalism in the Western world.

“This is a detailed, research-based and comparative account of developments in local news and journalism at a time of structural change and transition in local news ecosystems. It reasserts the significance of local news and journalism for local communities and their economic, political, social and cultural life and sets a benchmark for future studies of local news and journalism during a period of change and uncertainty.”

Bob Franklin, Professor of Journalism Studies, Cardiff University

“Journalism is changing, nowhere more rapidly than in locally produced news.  This book provides an on-the-ground glimpse of these changes as they are taking place across Europe, the UK, and the United States.  An invaluable snapshot of a fast-moving process…and an important touchstone for research yet to be done!”

David Ryfe, Director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa

The contributors to the book are Andrew Williams (Cardiff University), Bengt Engan (University of Nordland), C. W. Anderson (CUNY-CSI), Dave Hart (Birmingham City University), David Domingo (Université Libre de Bruxelles), Emmanuel Marty (University of Nice Sophia Antipolis), Florence Le Cam (Université Libre de Bruxelles), Franck Bousquet (University of Toulouse), Jerome Turner (Birmingham City University), Julie Firmstone (University of Leeds), Marco van Kerkhoven (Utrecht University of Applied Sciences), Matthew Powers (University of Washington), Nancy Thumim (University of Leeds), Nikos Smyrnaios (University of Toulouse), Oliver Baisnee (Sciences Po, Toulouse), Piet Bakker (Utrecht University of Applied Sciences), Sandra Vera Zambrano (Sciences Po, Toulouse), and Stephen Coleman (University of Leeds).

Table of contents

  1. The Uncertain Future of Local Journalism (Rasmus Kleis Nielsen)

PART I – Local media ecosystems

  1. The News Crisis Compared: The Impact of the Journalism Crisis on Local News Ecosystems in Toulouse, France and Seattle, USA (Matthew Powers, Sandra Vera Zambrano, and Olivier Baisnée)
  2. Local newspapers as keystone media: the increased importance of diminished newspapers for local political information environments (Rasmus Kleis Nielsen)
  3. How News Travels: A Comparative Study of Local Media Ecosystems in Leeds (UK) and Philadelphia (US) (C.W. Anderson, Stephen Coleman, and Nancy Thumim)

PART II – Local journalism and its interlocutors

  1. The plurality of journalistic identities in local controversies (Florence Le Cam and David Domingo)
  2. Rethinking local communicative spaces: reflecting on the implications of digital media and citizen journalism for the role of local journalism in engaging citizens in local democracies (Julie Firmstone and Stephen Coleman)
  3. Perceived relevance of and trust in local media (Bengt Engan)

PART III – New forms of local media

  1. Between journalistic diversity and economic constraints: local pure players in Southern France (Nikos Smyrnaios, Emmanuel Marty, and Franck Bousquet)
  2. Hyperlocal with a Mission? Motivation, strategy, engagement (Marco van Kerkhoven and Piet Bakker)
  3. Filling the News Hole? UK community news and the crisis in local journalism (Andy Williams, Dave Harte, and Jerome Turner)

Predictions for journalism in 2015–politicized digital intermediaries

The good folks at the NiemanLab at Harvard have asked a bunch of people to offer their predictions of something that will matter for journalism in 2015.

I wrote my piece about the increasing politicization of spectacularly successful, incredibly useful, and more and more powerful U.S.-based digital intermediaries like Google and Facebook, companies that face push-back and pressures from other interests.

“Just as the popular and commercial success of Google and Facebook is virtually global, so are the questions raised by the increasingly powerful position they occupy in the media environment. But because the answers are in part political, and (much) politics is local, the reactions are likely to vary from country to country. In 2015, we’ll see this discussion intensify and develop.”

With high-profile cases of this in for example France, Germany, and Spain, it is easy to charicature this as an legacy-old-media-old-world-Europe vs innovation-new-media-new-world-US issue (as it frequently is).

This is a misrepresentation. First of all, the issue is much broader than US-Europe. Second, many companies in the US itself are pushing back against Google and the like by all means available, including lobbying etc.

Lot’s of terrific pieces, all collected here.