One of the first interviews I did on State of the Media was with my old friend, Marty Weybret, publisher of the Lodi News Sentinel (which is one of the oldest family-owned daily newspapers left in America). At the time, the LNS was still doing well but Marty saw the handwriting on the wall. I've been pushing my friend to get more involved with social media and he finally got onto Facebook and is getting pretty active. He wrote a note with 10 questions on the future on journalism and asked for my input. I'm putting it up on his notes, but I thought it would be good for fodder here as well.
Does the symbiosis between advertising and news mean it never had the value
most journalists assumed it had?
Will user generated content replace a great deal of journalism?
Already has. Take a look at most trade journals and at least 50 percent is vendor-generated. Techonline is pretty much all user generated. And that's why most people are turning to social media because user/vendor-generated content is little more than marketing crap. It had it's place as a counterpoint to objective coverage, but as it continues, people are losing trust in media. Social media is becoming a replacement but only as far as it is a trusted source. But social media will die if it doesn't find a revenue source that at least covers its cost.
Will the "mainstream media," fade away or do they stand a chance of transforming themselves and becoming valuable again?
Given that people are paying more and more for entertainment & communication (cable TV, cell phones, online & video games, Internet connections, etc.) and less for journalism, can journalism change to the point it earns substantial revenue and still be journalism?
Why is Internet advertising cheaper than print advertising — does it work less well or is abundance driving the price down?
It's cheaper because the journalism industry priced it cheaper. The industry thought, "Gee we don't need paper or printing presses or layout teams. Let's price it at 10 cents on the dollar and tell the advertisers the same thing: that it will drive sales." But they didn't consider server costs, or computer science gurus in the cost, and they didn't know that people could more easily ignore ads on the screen than they could on paper. Online advertising is not a bad thing, but like traditional advertising, it doesn't perform as advertised.
Is the audience for TV news declining as rapidly as newspaper circulation? If not, is the bigger audience due more to the fact that TV news is free or due to its user-friendly video-audio form?
The audience isn't declining. The availability of fee content online is driving up audiences. More people are consuming news than ever before. They just don't have to pay for it. Most of the print pubs I work with are cutting print runs not because people aren't reading, but because they can't afford to print as many copies.
Newspaper circulation is declining for many reasons — free news on the 'Net, increasing immigration from countries with poor public education, anger at the bias and ethical failings of journalism, a lack of drama and a wishy-washy focus of most news writing, America's "video generation" finds papers less user-friendly, more people are "bowling alone" & commuting more so they are less involved in community affairs. There are probably other reasons as well. In what order would you rank these causes for the decline of circulation and why?
Can democracy survive a contraction of the mainstream media and an expansion of politician's Web sites and amateur blogging? Can the people influence big government armed with limited journalism?