New Trends of Journalism: New Business Models, Media Ownership, and Preserving Editorial Independence

The rise of the Internet and other digital media pose a particular challenge for traditional news outlets including print and broadcasting. In many parts of the world, newspaper sales have declined since the early 2000s, and some have opted only to have electronic versions of their publications.

While digital media and its myriad applications offer traditional publishers new channels for distributing content to a wider audience, increased revenues have not followed. The three most common revenue models for online news remain subscriptions, advertising, and donations. Each comes with its own benefits and drawbacks.

Journalism is a public good, but who will pay for it in the future? In the past, the media markets in many countries have enjoyed both private and public funding. The big media houses, generally run by private companies, are the media outlets that offer general international and national news, but these are the ones facing economic pressures from the rise of digital media.

Today, targeted niche markets, such as science, business, and sports, often deliver the profits media owners seek—as do sensationalist, populist, and biased news. What are the new business models going forward? The use of the Internet as a major information source raises important questions on the future funding of media, on the need for journalists’ unions to examine their strategies for organizing a new work force in journalism, and on ways of building new partnerships with citizens in order to defend press freedom.

It is no secret that journalism is undergoing a shift: “We don’t own the media anymore,” said the director of the BBC World Service and Global News division back in 2005. Media owners and managers face some great challenges in adjusting to the new digital world: to continue to fund newsrooms staffed by professional journalists or to rely on blogs and other user-generated content. One of the challenges includes the continuity of funding of investigative journalism which traditionally has been supported by well-established media companies. Will this modality be affected by the increased reliance of individual digital media users?

Finding the balance between generating profits in a new business environment—while holding on to the well-established journalistic standards and maintaining editorial independence—has emerged as one of the most pressing and urgent issues facing journalism in the digital age.

Food for Thought:

  • Will technological development hurt journalistic integrity as a whole? Will news quality and reliability suffer, since anyone can become a reporter?
  • How to ensure that journalism remains independent of political and commercial interference and influence in the face of changing revenue models?
  • Are there possible alternative funding models in addition to advertising, subscriptions, and donations?
  • Do digital media and traditional news media have a competing or mutually complementary relationship? What would be needed to create an enabling environment for synergy between the two?
  • How will traditional forms of media continue to be relevant in the Internet era?
  • How will journalists working in traditional print and broadcast media employ new tools in their reporting and the distribution of their news content?
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