Clearly, the Internet has had immense impact on all aspects of life including journalism and the news media. It has been a painful and complex transition for print, broadcast and online media to adapt to the Internet and online outlets like social media.
In their fight to stay relevant to consumers and to remain financially viable, the news media has had to reconfigure how they generate revenue to pay for the manpower it takes to gather, write and disseminate news.
While print subscriptions continue to decline, digital advertising revenue is dramatically increasing. After years of allowing complete and total access to all editorial content, savvy media outlets now release limited information and are slowly but successfully converting over to a subscription-based revenue model, relying less on advertising revenue derived from page views and clicks.
The cost of printing and distribution is no longer a realistic model, especially as increasingly more consumers prefer digital. More and more consumers get their news via smartphones, iPads, laptops and often via social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook rather than directly from news media outlets.
All media used to make their content available online at no cost. That model simply wasn’t sustainable. Most media have switched to subscription-based models, providing only limited access free of charge.
Meanwhile, the product that the media offers to advertisers has greatly changed. In some cases, there’s a very thin line between news media and marketing firms.
Crain Communications, which has more than 50 brands worldwide, has significantly expanded its portfolio of services well beyond simply reporting the news. For a fee, Crain Communications will organize all aspects of a special event; promote special events in their publications; write about special events in print or online as sponsored content; write custom copy; and print marketing materials.
Crain’s, while not new to special events, now generates significant revenue from helping businesses stage special events, write copy, create native advertising copy and optimize content. While sponsored editorial copy may not appear in print editions, the copy is published online and optimized for search engines.
While this may cause some angst among purists about the separation between editorial and advertising, let’s face it: we all need to adapt.
MLive Media Group was created in 2011. Initially, MLive took a lot of print newspapers from around the state, including The Ann Arbor News, The Bay City Times, The Flint Journal, The Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle and The Saginaw News and turned them into digital products with limited printed papers available approximately three days a week. Now, they too, also offer services like writing, design, custom promotional pieces, video and digital campaigns, content marketing and social media.
Online reading subscription services like Scribd which provides access to publications like the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal and The Guardian, continue to add hundreds of thousands of paying subscribers.
The road to profitability in this rapidly evolving news environment has been difficult for the news media.
The Detroit Free Press, Detroit News and local broadcasters have all taken a new approach to their advertising models and monetizing their news. The Detroit Free Press, Detroit News and others now include sponsored content. In the future, we anticipate that TV stations will have more sponsored content. In WXYZ TV 7’s evening newscast covering the North American International Auto Show, for example, the station ran a sponsored five-minute story about the Auto Show.
In Michigan, our two largest daily newspapers, the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News, continue to churn out smaller print publications with fewer employees, and this smaller model is still generating award-winning journalism.
Media like everything else is evolving at an incredibly fast pace, finding its footing in terms of survival. We need a strong media presence with successful revenue streams. Without it, we won’t have a viable news media.
It has been a struggle for the news media, but they are adapting, and we think they are winning the battle.