The takeover of news via the software necessary for digital platforms may be the the biggest threat to journalism, not where or how people get information, says the annual State of the News Media Report.
“The biggest issue ahead may not be lack of audience or even lack of new revenue experiments. It may be that in the digital realm the news industry is no longer in control of its own future,” Tom Rosenstiel and Amy Mitchell of the Project for Excellence in Journalism write.
For the first time ever, more people regularly get their news online (46 percent) than from print newspapers (40 percent), the study says. In fact, “Every media sector is losing audience now except online. … In 2010 every news platform saw audiences either stall or decline — except for the Web.”
Rosenstiel and Mitchell say, “News organizations — old and new — still produce most of the content audiences consume. But each technological advance has added a new layer of complexity — and a new set of players — in connecting that content to consumers and advertisers.
“In the digital space, the organizations that produce the news increasingly rely on independent networks to sell their ads. They depend on aggregators (such as Google) and social networks (such as Facebook) to bring them a substantial portion of their audience. And now, as news consumption becomes more mobile, news companies must follow the rules of device makers (such as Apple) and software developers (Google again) to deliver their content. Each new platform often requires a new software program. And the new players take a share of the revenue and in many cases also control the audience data.
“That data may be the most important commodity of all. In a media world where consumers decide what news they want to get and how they want to get it, the future will belong to those who understand the public’s changing behavior and can target content and advertising to snugly fit the interests of each user. That knowledge — and the expertise in gathering it — increasingly resides with technology companies outside journalism.”