Julie Angell

Restructuring Into Digital Territory

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 6.17.18 PMBy Julie Angell

When we hear the word “restructuring” in journalism, we need to not worry or assume the world is ending. After reading a report about the “State of the News Media in 2015” by the Pew Research Center, I was reassured that this shift won’t shake everyone loose from the jobs they know and love.

First of all, this optimistic viewpoint is coming from a privileged millennial born in 1994, about to graduate into the turbulent world of media. I haven’t been an investigative journalist for 25 years suddenly laid off because of restructuring and budget cuts, but I’m sorry for those who have experienced that trauma.

After seeing data showing how much revenue is made in digital versus print, and seeing the changing demands for types of content, I tried to connect them. I put findings from this report into a perspective I can understood. For example, MLive’s very recent restructuring includes, “the formation of a video storytelling and production team; and focusing resources on emerging social media channels and audiences,” according to John Hiner, vice president of content.

Most of the comments on MLive’s release about its restructuring were concerns about a lack of investigative journalism in local markets. These concerns persist despite claims from the media group about staffing a new statewide investigative reporting team.

“I think the biggest fear is that the emphasis on statewide journalism will drive out community journalism,” Anya Rath, an intern at MLive and former coworker of mine, told me.

A digital news structure might require different types of content and reporting, which might not be all that bad. It’s just change and construction.

The Pew report showed that while digital ad revenue is rising, it still is nowhere near the volume produced by print advertising.The Pew Research Center’s report on 2015 media says that digital ad revenue is up in the past five years, but it’s not enough to make up for the loss in print revenue. So as news organizations switch to digital operations, it seems like it may be difficult for them to keep the same level of community, watchdog-type journalism. Digital ads have to perform better while readers spend just seconds reading online news on average.

And according to them, revenue from newspaper ads, “declined another 4% year over year, to $19.9 billion – less than half of what it was a decade ago.” Of the 29 content positions eliminated at MLive, most of them were jobs related to newspaper production. So after reading MLive’s release about restructuring and the Pew’s 2015 media report, I wondered how content will change as the demand for ad revenue goes up.

The average visit to The New York Times’ website and associated apps one year ago was just 4.6 minutes, which was good compared to other news outlets. While news goes digital, the demand for articles that incite unique visitors and overall pageviews seems to go up.

So how long until we restructure ourselves into completely digital media? Most of the revenue keeping news outlets alive comes from print, which is oftentimes thought of as archaic. The long term success of more video and entertainment reporting is unknown. But, it’s worth trying while the media landscape is under construction. — Julie Angell 

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