The economics of news – a critique

Paul Bradshaw, an academic journalist blogger, posted on his Online Journalism Blog (OJB) a post entitled ‘How the web changed the economics of news‘ in 2009. In this, he detailed 12 changes news organisations needed to consider in order to cope with the ‘online revolution’ of journalism. While Bradshaw (2009) makes some very good and interesting points, there is further reconsideration needed in points 4, 6 and 9.

In point number four, Bradshaw (2009) claims that technology has reduced the cost of ‘newsgathering, production and distribution’, something which is quite difficult to believe. If the cost of these three things are now virtually nil, then why is the newspaper industry still declining? Quality journalism is still needed as people won’t pay for churnalism and PR, so therefore it figures that newsgathering and production are still quite costly for news organisations.

Point number six is an interesting one; that certain types of journalism have been devalued due to the concept that with the internet, anyone can be a journalist. Amazon is full of reviews of films, books and everything else, so why do we need to pay to read reviews? This point comes back to credible and quality journalism. Very often, Amazon and similar websites are filled with ‘reviews’ by faceless people hiding behind a username, who either love or hate the product (or write very silly reviews, like with this banana slicer). It’s hard to trust someone when a) you don’t know their style of writing and previous reviews; b) you don’t know who they write for, or what their bias is and; c) you don’t even know their name. This is why quality and knowledgeable reviews will always be needed and will never be devalued.

I wonder what percentage of Amazon reviews are fake?


Another factor to consider is that certain companies offer cash incentives to get people to write fake and/or positive reviews for their products in order to boost their sales. This blog post, by Armando Roggio (2012), debates the idea further and sums up by saying:

“Online retailers should always aim to serve customers, even when they are encouraging reviews, and in the light of The New York Times article and other published reports, serving customers may mean changing how review marketing is done. Sometimes what seems like a clever marketing or advertising plan in conference rooms may unintentionally seem unethical when presented to customers or the media.”

Francois Nel’s (2010) ‘Laid Off: What do UK journalists do next?‘ explores, with a study, the decline of the UK’s mainstream journalism corporations and touches on the fact that perhaps some change is needed with the online evolution. Nel (2010) suggests that the more traditional media organisations need to ‘restructure’ and ‘reinvent’ themselves in order to survive in the Digital Age. However, unlike Bradshaw (2009), Nel (2010) does not really go into any further detail on this point.

To summarise, although Bradshaw makes some strong points about how online journalism is changing the economics of news, perhaps with this blog post, he has not totally considered that readers still want – and need – quality journalism. Public opinion is often vital, and yes, you don’t need to be a journalist in order to know stuff and write well about it, but with websites like Amazon, it can be hard to trust a faceless username.


One thought on “The economics of news – a critique

  1. Thanks for reviewing your post – and good to see some evidence presented. On point 4 you seem to miss something quite key: I talk about the costs of *online* newsgathering, production and distribution. The newspaper industry, of course, has *print* costs on top of that, which is a large reason why it is declining. On top of that, most parts of the newspaper industry took out large loans in the past based on an expectation that profits would continue at the rate they were at that time. It’s the payments on those loans which many cannot now pay. Without those, some would still be profitable businesses.

    You also say that people aren’t prepared to pay for churnalism – but large chunks of local newspapers have been characterised by churnalism for quite some time. There’s an implication that online = churnalism and print is not. You need some research to back that up. There is no commercial incentive for non-journalists online to produce churnalism, because they don’t have to fill space and sell advertising next to it (which isn’t to say that you don’t also get quality when you pay people to do it).

    On reviews: again, I don’t say that professionally written reviews don’t have value. My point is that the value of those has dropped, because now there are other options (which you may personally not value, but others will). I am not saying that readers do not want quality journalism – I am saying that the economic value of particular aspects of journalism has changed. Remember that in most cases readers don’t really pay for the journalism – advertisers do.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s