Study: The Web might have a negative impact on American journalism

Study: The Web might have a negative impact on American journalism.
The Project for Excellence in Journalism study of online news makes some interesting points, but misses the mark on others. The report rightly notes that the Internet is becoming a major source of news in America, but it grossly understates the importance of blogs — citing Pew data from the beginning of the Iraq war 12 months ago. As mentioned earlier, the study notes that the biggest problem for the Web is its inability to provide a “robust” revenue source for journalism and concludes that this might make the Web a net liability.

The Web is the only part of the mainstream news business that generally is seeing audiences grow, especially among the young. People like the convenience of the Web, its availability at work, its speed for delivering breaking news, and increasingly they are coming to trust the accuracy of the information they receive there. The problem is an economic one. How will Web journalism begin to pay its own way? If people increasingly substitute the Web for their old media before a robust economic model for the Web evolves, the economic effect could be devastating for journalism. Companies might begin to cut back significantly on their newsgathering abilities, as audiences abandon profitable old platforms in favor of less profitable new ones. The net in this case might weaken, not strengthen, the economic vitality of news organizations and the quality of American journalism.
I think that’s defensive and misleading. It’s only negative for the status quo, and who needs more of that?

While the online media is dominated by big media companies, the study also notes that: “There are also a myriad of local Internet news sites, whose goals are not to compete for the nationwide audience but rather to appeal to the local community.” This strikes at the core of why I’m trying so hard to help local television figure this out. The eyes of most Web observers are fixed on macro movements, when the real action is in the trenches, where people meet and discuss via this wonderful, two-way communications medium. This is where profit will be found, not with the easy money scheme for which everybody keeps searching.

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