When the Pew Research Center released its 2012 State of the News Media report the other day, one of its findings was that tech companies — rather than news organizations — were benefitting most from online and mobile advertising.
We identified this as a new type of digital divide with news organizations becoming increasingly reliant on the Googles, Apples, Twitters and Facebooks of the world.
Writing at the Online Journalism Review, Robert Niles inverts the concern and believes that this economic and power shift liberates the journalists who actually report the news:
I’ve never believed that newspaper companies are the originators of journalism. To me, the true originators of journalism are reporters and sources. Newspapers were yesterday’s middlemen, bringing together reporters, an audience, and the advertisers who were willing to pay to reach the audience that journalists’ reports would attract. Sure, newspaper companies played a vital role, but calling them the originators of content is akin to giving credit to an talent agent for an actor’s performance.
Today, tech companies have disrupted these arrangements. As a journalist, I can use Google’s Blogger to create my own publication and Google’s AdSense will pay me for the advertising revenue that my work attracts. And let’s not forget those downloads from Amazon and Apple, either, which provide an even more direct route for today’s writers to earn income from an audience. I don’t need a job with a newspaper a make living as a journalist now. Tech companies have become the new middlemen, through which sources and writers can reach an audience and customers, instead of having to rely on newspaper and broadcast companies to make that match, as they did so often in the past.
In this view, Pew’s report is not a depiction of a news industry losing control of its revenue future to the tech industry. It is instead a map of how tech companies are disrupting publishing monopolies, creating new avenues for journalists to travel in their careers.
Some of these new avenues are yet uncharted. Others won’t lead to any reasonable income. Others still will turn out to offer immense profit. All my work writing over the past few years on OJR about entrepreneurial journalism has been to help you find the best new avenue for you. But just because newspaper companies are getting squeezed doesn’t mean that you have to lose your future in the journalism business.
While I wouldn’t recommend anyone quit their day job for potential AdSense riches, I think Niles’ overall point is important to remember. Yes, I’d like to see legacy organizations with their histories and infrastructure for supporting great journalism survive. But more important I want to see great journalism itself survive.
I’m not convinced that the two are necessarily related.
Robert Niles, OJR. Turn news industry disruptions to your advantage.