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A Few Words About the Future of Media

There are two big issues regarding the survival of news organizations: trust, and business models.
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A democracy needs a trustworthy, vital press to survive.

People who really know a lot of about the news business talk to me, an outsider, and here's how I read the consensus. There are two big issues regarding the survival of news organizations: trust, and business models.

News organizations earn trust by visibly doing a lot of fact-checking, and by keeping their financial interests separate from reporting. The latter means that the income of the news organization should not influence what or how they report. Looks like this is a real concern for Millenials.

Note that fact-checking can be expensive; editorial integrity can also cost revenue.

There are a number of business models which might support news organizations and allow them to thrive. Sponsorship, pay-per-view, subscriptions, philanthropy, and advertising are all possible. However, advertising which focuses on specific products or services is threatened by review sites. As a consumer, I ignore almost all specific ads, and use review sites. For example, a very trustworthy review site is offered by Consumer Reports.(Disclosure: I'm on their board.)

Taking this together, trustworthiness will differentiate a small number of news organizations from a much larger number of organizations, which forgo fact-checking, etc.

Trustworthy news organizations will be the winners of the new news environment. People will pay for trusted news, like the New York Times and Consumer Reports, and these will offer good environments for brand advertising, subscription, philanthropy, and maybe pay-per-view.

Otherwise, news organizations will fight over a shrinking pool of advertising dollars.

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