Category Archives: Business of journalism

Do people know where they get their news from?

When people get news via search engines, social media, and others forms of distributed discovery — rather than going directly to a website or app — they often cannot correctly recall what brand e a story they have read actually came from.

In a new article in New Media & Society led by Antonis Kalogeropoulos and with Richard Fletcher, we’ve looked more closely at the factors that influence correct news brand attribution in different environments.

Abstract below, full article here.

The digital media environment is increasingly characterized by distributed discovery, where media users find content produced by news media via platforms like search engines and social media. Here, we measure whether online news users correctly attribute stories they have accessed to the brands that have produced them. We call this “news brand attribution.” Based on a unique combination of passive tracking followed by surveys served to a panel of users after they had accessed news by identifiable means (direct, search, social) and controlling for demographic and media consumption variables, we find that users are far more likely to correctly attribute a story to a news brand if they accessed it directly rather than via search or social. We discuss the implications of our findings for the business of journalism, for our understanding of source cues in an increasingly distributed media environment and the potential of the novel research design developed.

Advertisements

‘We no longer live in a time of separation’: A comparative analysis of how editorial and commercial integration became a norm

Back in June, Journalism: Theory, Practice, Critique published an article based on the ongoing, comparative qualitative research Alessio Cornia, Annika Sehl, and I have been doing on how European news media are adapting to digital.

Based on interviews as 12 different private sector legacy news media, we show how many are rethinking the traditional separation of editorial and commercial operations, and that the increasing integration between editorial and commercial (not assimilation of editorial into commercial, not hierarchical relegation of editorial to commercial) is motivated by the same aspiration as the traditional separation: to ensure professional autonomy, only today that is pursued by working with other parts of the organization to jointly ensure commercial sustainability, rather than by trying to remain completely separate from commercial issues..

The abstract below and the article here.

The separation between editorial and business activities of news organisations has long been a fundamental norm of journalism. Journalists have traditionally considered this separation as both an ethical principle and an organisational solution to preserve their professional autonomy and isolate their newsrooms from profit-driven pressures exerted by advertising, sales and marketing departments. However, many news organisations are increasingly integrating their editorial and commercial operations. Based on 41 interviews conducted at 12 newspapers and commercial broadcasters in six European countries, we analyse how editors and business managers describe the changing relationship between their departments. Drawing on previous research on journalistic norms and change, we focus on how interviewees use rhetorical discourses and normative statements to de-construct traditional norms, build new professionally accepted norms and legitimise new working practices. We find, first, that the traditional norm of separation no longer plays the central role that it used to. Both editors and managers are working to foster a cultural change that is seen as a prerequisite for organisational adaptation to an increasingly challenging environment. Second, we find that a new norm of integration, based on the values of collaboration, adaptation and business thinking, has emerged. Third, we show how the interplay between declining and emerging norms involves a difficult negotiation. Whereas those committed to the traditional norm see commercial considerations as a threat to professional autonomy, our interviewees see the emerging norm as a new way of ensuring professional autonomy by working with other parts of the organisation to jointly ensure commercial sustainability.

Changes in Third-Party Content on European News Websites after GDPR

Working with RISJ colleagues Tim Libert (now at Carnegie Mellon) and Lucas Graves, I’ve worked on a short piece of research examining changes in third-party content and cookies on news sites across seven EU countries before and after GDPR.

Tim led the work using his tool webXray to collect and analyse a total of 10,168 page loads, nearly 1 million content requests, and 2.7 million cookies from April (pre-GDPR) and July (post-GDPR) across over 200 news sites.

We find that news sites continue to be deeply intertwined with a wide range of third parties, especially in advertising, social media, and the like, though there is some drop in the amount of third party content and cookies after GDPR.

The factsheet is here and abstract below.

This factsheet compares the prevalence of third-party web content and cookies on a selection of European news websites one month before and one month after the introduction of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).   To understand how news organisations may be adapting to the new privacy framework, prominent news websites in seven countries (Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the UK) were analysed during the months of April and again in July 2018.

While there is no change in the overall percentage of pages from news providers which contain some form of third-party content (99%) or third-party cookies (98%), we find a 22% drop in the number of cookies set without user consent and an observable decrease in third-party social media content.

Draft chapter on “The Changing Economic Contexts of Journalism”

Here is a a PDF of my draft chapter on “The Changing Economic Contexts of Journalism” for the 2nd edition of the ICA Handbook of Journalism Studies, edited by Karin Wahl-Jorgensen and Thomas Hanitzsch.

I’ve tried to summarize in about 30 pages the most important basic features of the business of news, its historical evolution (like the graph below), and where it is heading. Circulation and advertising

I’ve got a few weeks to finish it – suggestions welcome! (It is far too long, so suggestions of cuts especially welcome.)

I hope the chapter will provide a useful and readable introduction for both journalists and journalism studies students/scholars to key concept like the attention economy, two-sided markets, high fixed cost/low variable cost, news as a non-rivalrous experience good, market failure, media capture, and what the move to digital does and does not change.

Please note, I’ve prioritized media economics, historical background, and key current changes. Can’t cover everything in one chapter. Day-to-day developments are better covered in trade publications. And there is much, much more research out there (though too little I know of from the Global South), by economists, and by others. For those interested in critical political economy, I recommend the work of fx Robin Mansell and Janet Wasko, for those interested in ownership, the immense empirical research efforts lead by Eli Noam, Vanita Kohli-Khandekar’s work on the Indian media business has been really useful for me in other work, for those interested in advertising, the work of for example Joe Turow, and much more beyond that.

The business of news after advertising?

I’m on a panel at the 2018 International Journalism Festival on “the business of news after advertising?” with Raju Narisetti, Rene Kaplan, and Janine Gibson.

Here are my background notes for the session, in part based on things I’ve written elsewhere, including this Nieman Lab post about how the business of news after advertising may look a lot like the business of news before advertising (more elite-oriented, more often based on subsidies from for example political patrons) and this longer book chapter.

Key points are–

News production has historically been funded by advertising and sales, but the advertising investment in news is in long-term structural decline—in the US, for example, newspapers’ share of total advertising has been in steady decline for more than half a century.

Circulation and advertising

This is really important, because newspapers still account for the majority of the funds invested in news production. In US, Bureau of Labor statistics suggest print publishers still accounted for more than half of all journalists employed as of 2016.

Most legacy news media will never make kind of money off news that they made in past, because

1) they no longer have market power they had in low-choice environment,

2) their content bundle is being unbundled, and

3) they compete head-to-head w/platforms that offer advertisers cheap, targeted, unduplicated reach, and therefore dominate digital advertising.

(Some of this is shared with various partners through revenue sharing and the like — Google, for example, reported that they paid out 24% of total advertising revenues in Q4 2017 in various forms of “traffic acquisition costs”.)

Platforms

So, given dwindling cross-subsidies from legacy ops like print/broadcast, what lies ahead, beyond cost-cutting in many news orgs, in some countries possibly public subsidies, and in more and more cases a return to various forms of politically-motivated investment in news?

My fellow panellists demonstrate different approaches.

At Gizmodo, Raju Narisetti has pursued diversification with emphasis on different kinds of advertising.

At the Financial Times, Renee Kaplan and her colleagues focus on reader revenues.

At Buzzfeed, Janine Gibson and her colleagues have pursued off-site reach and revenue-sharing with platforms.

(Beyond this, we can look at the incremental growth in non-profit models for news provision, though the resources in aggregate are far smaller than those generated by private sector, for-profit news media.)

There is no one model that is right for every publisher in every country, but the basic  structural change seem clear and near-universal — advertising remains an impotant part of the business of news, but traditional forms of advertising (print, broadcast, and digital display) are declining, because most advertisers seem to think they get more value for money elsewhere (and they were always interested in audiences’ attention, not news in itself).

News organizations who want to thrive in this changing environment have to operate very lean cost structures and seek to generate other revenues, for example by pursuing new forms of distinct digital advertising, by seeking reader revenues, or by trying to leverage platforms for reach and revenue-sharing.

“The Changing Business of Journalism and its Implications for Democracy” as free download

Back in 2010, David Levy and I edited a collection of essays on The Changing Business of Journalism and its Implications for Democracy, published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism here in Oxford.

We have today made the whole book available for download here [PDF]. (All the hard copies have been sold!)

In addition to the chapters written by David, Robert Picard, and myself, the book contains interesting contributions by Alice Antheaume (Sciences Po, Paris), Michael Brüggemann (University of Zürich, now Hamburg), Frank Esser (University of Zürich), John Lloyd (University of Oxford/Financial Times), Hannu Nieminen (University of Helsinki),  Mauro Porto (Tulane University), Michael Schudson (Columbia University), Daya Kishan Thussu (University of Westminster), and Sacha Wunsch-Vincent (World Intellectual Property Organisation and formerly OECD).

Nicholas Lemann and Paolo Mancini provided the advance praise with some very nice quotes.

The Changing Business of Journalism and its Implications for Democracy, as the only rigorous global survey of a situation usually discussed on the basis of anecdote and unproved assertion, is an indispensable and necessary work. It ought to open the way for real progress in reinventing journalism.

Nicholas Lemann, Dean and Henry R. Luce Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

This is a very detailed and rich analysis of the structural changes in today’s business of journalism: the media in many countries face a deep crisis caused both by new technologies and more general economic circumstances while in others they are experiencing rapid growth. In both cases the entire structure of the field is undergoing a dramatic change in terms of professional practice and in how media are organized and run. This book represents an indispensable tool for all those who want to understand where journalism and democracy are going today.

Paolo Mancini, Professor at Università di Perugia and co-author of Comparing Media Systems (Cambridge, 2004).

The full table of content looks as follows:

Contents

Executive summary

1. The Changing Business of Journalism and its
Implications for Democracy
Rasmus Kleis Nielsen and David A. L. Levy

2. A Business Perspective on Challenges Facing Journalism
Robert G. Picard

3. Online News: Recent Developments, New Business
Models and Future Prospects
Sacha Wunsch-Vincent

4. The Strategic Crisis of German Newspapers
Frank Esser and Michael Brüggemann

5. The Unravelling Finnish Media Policy Consensus?
Hannu Nieminen

6. The French Press and its Enduring Institutional Crisis
Alice Antheaume

7. The Press We Destroy
John Lloyd

8. News in Crisis in the United States: Panic – And Beyond
Michael Schudson

9. The Changing Landscape of Brazil’s News Media
Mauro P. Porto

10. The Business of ‘Bollywoodized’ Journalism
Daya Kishan Thussu

11. Which Way for the Business of Journalism?
Rasmus Kleis Nielsen and David A. L. Levy

The Future of News – European Parliament

March 1, I spoke at a workshop on the future of news in the European Parliament organized by MEP Marietje Schaake (Dutch Democratic Party (D66),part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group).

A video of the event should be available here.

c51wui0xqaajp8x-jpg-large

The video should be well worth watching — lots of interesting and important discussion, of fake news, of filter bubbles, and of various policy issues including copyright.

I was particularly struck by the contrast between what I couldn’t help but feel was deep pessimism from Francois Le Hodey (CEO of the IPM publishing group which owns, amongst other things, the daily newspaper  La Libre Belgique) and Rob Wijnberg (co-founder and editor of DeCorrespondent), who had a more optimistic take.

Despite (rightly) highlighting that many European publishers have built significant digital audiences and are investing aggressively in digital initiatives, Le Hodey said several times “we have got five years”. He argued that it takes “between €50 million and €200 million” a year to fund and run a proper newsroom, and pointed out that print revenues are currently shrinking much faster than digital revenues are growing.

Wijnberg in a way was much more critical of existing journalism in terms of the quality and public value of much of it (arguing it often doesn’t actually help people understand the world, because it focuses on episodes and exceptions rather than longer-term developments and general trends). But he was also much more optimistic about developing a sustainable business around reader contributions and others sources — as deCorrespondent has done in the Netherlands, now with more than 50,000 paying subscribers. His optimism may in part be about expectations — unlike the figure Le Hodey offered (based on what newspapers have historically been able to invest), he said deCorrespondent operates on a budget around €3 million a year — not easy to generate (as other start-ups have found), but surely easier than €50+ million. His position has, I felt, a lot in common with that Melissa Bell outlined earlier this year in her lecture at Oxford.

I gave a short presentation based on some of our recent research, including our work on private sector legacy news media (this report, with Alessio Cornia and Annika Sehl), digital-born news media (this report with Tom Nicholls and Nabeelah Shabbir), and broader trends in media use, markets, and policy across Europe (this report with Alessio Cornia and Antonis Kalogeropoulos), as well as some of the work we have under way on the notion of filter bubbles (see a short piece Richard Fletcher and I wrote here).

My main points are summarized on the slide below.

future-of-news-eu

The other speakers were Francois Le Hodey (CEO, IPM Group), Rob Wijnberg (Founder, De Correspondent), Marco Pancini (Director Of EU Public Policy, Google), Anne Appelbaum (Columnist, Washington Post), Richard Allen (Vice President Public Policy EMEA, Facebook), and Krisztina Stump (Deputy Head of Unit, Converging Media, Content Unit, Directorate General, Communications Networks, Content and Technology, European Commission).