I happened to catch a presentation to the Nieman Lab by Pablo Boczkowski, the Northwestern professor who studies news production and how it is changing in a digital environment. It was a good enough lecture but I got the impression Pablo had not spent a great deal of time in any newspaper with a pulse.
The whale in question was “the gap between what journalists write and readers read” … as if this was a somehow by-product of digital media rather than a long-standing (if inconvenient) truth.
To give him his due, Boczkowski comes clean to being a trained ethnographer — and so not someone accustomed to providing anyone with a compelling reason to either purchase a newspaper or buy some advertising space in it.
Still, cogent as the presentation is, it ignores the fact that journalists have more or less “never” written what people want. Just that some were fortunate enough to live at a time when the print media’s relationship with their geographically relevant advertisers still had a modicum of value.
Real news was always a luxury and if you worked on a paper you knew that it was the betting industry (sports and racing results) and the classified advertising, which subsidised the news pages. Without these, and the reader who purchased your rag for them, the journalist and his higher calling would be creek-less as well as paddle-free.
Of course, there was always a Randolph, or a Rupert in the mix to prove the exception to this rule and trouser the big bucks … but then they were never “journalists” — they were populist “hacks”.
The critical relationship which broke the business model in the end was not that between reader and publisher (more a natural migration), but that between publisher and advertiser. Ask any small business-owner who has made the decision to migrate his meager spend to Google because his newspaper stopped caring about him.
The promise of good data is that in time, those who will survive as owners of news media will be dragged kicking and squealing back to taking the advertiser as seriously as they take that reader. The advertiser, let me remind you is “the customer” too. [ Full Story ]
PS: If you decide to follow up, read the transcript. The unedited video (the opening is amateur hour) will remind you of just how poor journalists can be at presentation. When would any of them be without editors and designers?!