Tuesday, March 20, 2007

End game for newspaper industry newsletter

As I spoke with journalism students last week, trying to convince them that there was no longer any such thing as a career in print alone, I wish I had known this:
The Morton-Groves Newspaper Newsletter, a B2B publication that covers the newspaper industry, issued a dire warning March 15 saying that time may have run out for publications that haven't adapted to new media. "For those who have not made the transition [by now], technology and market factors may be too strong to enable success," the newsletter said.
And then the newsletter said good-bye ... forever.

After 30 years of covering the newspaper business, Morton-Groves has published its final edition.
You can read the whole thing on this .pdf file, but suffice it to say that Morton-Groves doesn't see much light at the end of the tunnel. (You can also read more about the history of the newsletter on the "Reflections of a Newsosaur" blog, where I first learned that Morton-Groves was no more.)

At the College Media Advisers convention last week, I told students and teachers that it was clear to me that we were seeing the burst of a "content bubble." In an era when everyone can be a publisher, lots of people have become publishers. We're awash in content. Few of us -- even armed with RSS, widgets and content-aggregation services -- can keep up with what's out there.
For many publishers, it's become impossible to survive in a world with so many competitors.

And now, as the bubble bursts, things are getting tougher. The monetary value of content is falling. Companies that are tied to expensive production methods (paper, delivery trucks, outdated CMS systems, large staffs, etc.) are being squeezed into oblivion.
But this is the bubble that may never stop bursting.
The low cost of entry has kept the competitors coming.
And in a global economy, much of the U.S. publishing industry will offshore work in order to keep costs low.
And that is a very, very difficult environment for an entry-level journalist.

Back when I started out in this industry, the value proposition that landed me my first job was simple: volume. For the price of a mid-career journalist, a publisher could hire me and another kid straight out of school. We wouldn't produce work that was on par with that of the established professional, but we would produce more of it.
A student today faces a bleaker equation.
Why would a publisher hire an entry-level reporter at a price that could get him three writers and a designer in Asia? Why would a publisher hire a college kid when there are experts and professionals who will blog for free? Why would anyone pay money for more words in a world where there's already a surplus of words?

But as anyone who reads this blog knows, I see endless opportunities for ambitious journalists in this new environment.
Later this week I'll share my thoughts on what young journalists need to do to thrive in the content bubble.

tags: , , , , , , , , journalism education


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