Pew report’s a stunner, but where’s it all headed?

To those of us who’ve been following the disruptive innovation known as the Internet for a long time, the latest “State of the News Media” report from the folks at Pew comes as no surprise. Nothing is shocking anymore, not even the brutally harsh tone of this report, “the bleakest” since Pew began issuing them annually six years ago.

I’ll spare you the numbers and the graphs, because they only look at where we’ve been and where we are. I’m more interested in where we’re going. I encourage you to go read the report for yourself, because it does paint a painfully accurate portrait of where we are in the community of journalism. More on that in a minute, but first, the report’s “six emerging trends:”

  1. The growing public debate over how to finance the news industry may well be focusing on the wrong remedies while other ideas go largely unexplored.
  2. Power is shifting to the individual journalist and away, by degrees, from journalistic institutions.
  3. On the Web, news organizations are focusing somewhat less on bringing audiences in and more on pushing content out.
  4. The concept of partnership, motivated in part by desperation, is becoming a major focus of news investment and it may offer prospects for the financial future of news.
  5. Even if cable news does not keep the audience gains of 2008, its rise is accelerating another change—the elevation of the minute-by-minute judgment in political journalism.
  6. In its campaign coverage, the press was more reactive and passive and less of an enterprising investigator of the candidates than it once was.

The Pew annual reports are excellent and very useful for media companies in the removal of the scales that hide the truth. The graphs will show up in PowerPoint presentations from coast-to-coast, as we all try and figure out what to do next, and that can be problematic when staring only at a “where we’ve been and where we are” perspective. Research is based on what has already happened, and if you follow those trend lines, you’ll end up on-the-street. The report says “reinvent” in a few places, but it can’t give any direction there, other than to report on “emerging trends.” This is not to be critical of the work — it’s outstanding — but rather of the shortcomings of constantly looking backwards.

I have only my crystal ball (Fred doesn’t believe in such), but here’s what it’s showing me:

  1. It’s gone and it’s not coming back. Acceptance of this is the beginning of reinvention.
  2. Future revenue is about enabling commerce, not about serving advertising adjacent to or as an interruption of “content.”
  3. Journalism will survive the death of its institutions (thanks, Lisa).
  4. Most journalists will be independent and work for whoever pays them the most, on a non-exclusive basis.
  5. Journalists will develop and exploit niche specialties.
  6. “The News” will be fast, transparent and authentic.
  7. Anchors will become mostly obsolete, like other middlemen that the Web routes around. I simply can read faster than I can have it read to me. Those that remain will be live hubs that filter multiple content inputs.

There will be nothing passive about the news experience of tomorrow, neither from the gathering and presentation end, nor the consumption end, and this means it’s going to be a lot of work. But work will be rewarded, and new institutions and hierarchies will be built.

Of course, I could be wrong.


  1. Cameron Harper says


    I belive I understand what you mean, but I’d sure like to see you expand on the anchor “hub” idea.


  2. Cameron Harper says

    make that… believe

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