Journalism has faced a number of challenges over the past few years and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. The duopoly has long been seen as one of the biggest threats to the journalism industry. However, according to our “Don’t stop the press” survey of 153 national, business, and trade journalists across the US, UK, and Europe, only 21% felt that this was a major concern.
Other factors such as the decline of quality, reluctance to pay for content, fake news and reliance on advertising revenue were all considered a bigger threat. In particular, shrinking newsrooms has a major effect on the industry, affecting both the quantity and quality of the output of journalists.
The impact of technology
Technology has been a driving factor for the growth of the news industry and has allowed us to spread information far and wide. It gives journalists the power to share the latest news with all corners of the globe and is a hugely important resource.
However, although there are many benefits with the growth of technology in the space, it has also had its drawbacks. Readers are reluctant to pay for digital content, which has put additional strain on journalism. More than half of journalists cited this as a top threat to their job.
However, 90% of journalists feel that technology has ultimately had a positive effect on their industry and has created a number of new opportunities. It’s allowed them to understand their audiences better, produce content that is more likely to engage readers and collaborate with the commercial team to create content that will drive ad revenue and subscriptions.
Journalists understand the need for paid content
Ultimately, journalists understand that their content needs to be paid for with a combination of ad revenue and subscriptions. Subscription strategies are a priority for publishers. In fact, according to Reuters Institute, 52% of publishers said building a subscription audience will be their top business priority in 2019. According to our research, an almost equal number of journalists like paywalls and understand that they are needed, compared to those that don’t like them but think they are necessary. Only 10% thought all content should be free to access.
However, quality journalism requires funding. The publishing sector is still undecided about the best way to fund its output. Our research clearly shows that some funding models actually undermine journalists’ ability to produce their best work. To combat this, media companies and their journalists need to work together to create a sustainable, best-in-class product that provides a guarantee of sustained, quality output, job security, and satisfaction—something most journalists agreed in this research, was sadly lacking.
When looking at the types of content that are currently produced, the research showed that journalists believe that ad revenue-based models favor click-bait, short-form content (67% agree), while subscription-based models support longer-form, quality journalism (84% agree). This indicated that journalists understand that paywalls are necessary to protect journalism in the long term, while still allowing them to drive revenue.
Concerns about the future
The majority of journalists felt seriously concerned for the future of the industry (78%). Their other key concerns included the poor quality of journalism, the spread of fake news, the lack of funding of online media brands, and the decreasing number of newsrooms. In addition to this, 83% of journalists believe that they have poor job security which is mainly driven by consumers reluctance to pay for digital content.
Although this may seem to paint a bleak picture for the future of journalism, our research shows that publishers are working hard to adapt to these pressures. There is a drive towards the introduction of more sustainable funding models which support long and short-form content, ultimately providing a better, more prosperous future for the industry.