Consumer demand for news journalism

There’s a lot of talk about how news journalism will be created, distributed and paid for. However, I’m concerned that we’re not addressing the consumer’s changing appetite for quality news and interest in being a well-rounded, well-informed citizen. With scarcity of time and money a growing reality for an increasing number of people, news journalism may get a smaller share of wallet. If consumers care less and less, then revenue from neither advertising nor subscriptions will be strong enough to support “the collection or dissemination of news itself.” In other words, when demand drops, supply drops to reach equilibrium.

So what are we doing about the demand? Let’s assume aggregate demand for news journalism really is decreasing significantly and will not recover on its own. Industries that go through massive shifts in demand experience consolidation because the market just won’t support so many companies. The weaker players – measured by quality of product, value to customers and economic strength, all relative to the competitive landscape in the present – will not survive at all or as they had been.

To create or stimulate demand, we have to drive awareness, interest and desire among consumers. Both private and public entities can apply marketing basics: Brand marketing, direct marketing and public relations. I am not seeing this on a broad scale to encourage the general public.

Who should take the lead to stimulate demand? In France, the government supports a program providing free subscriptions to 18-year-olds and discounted subscriptions to everyone – to the newspaper of their choice.

With fewer news organizations and people having more ways to spend time, the time and money required to consume news journalism might become so scarce that only a fast-shrinking segment of Americans can afford it: Affluent and/or retired individuals. This will lead to news journalism, as we know it, becoming a boutique product/service instead of the inexpensive, mass-market stuff we have today.

Comment on The Newspaper Biz: ‘More Poison, Please’?

Eric Alterman has a great conclusion: It’s painful to admit, but admit it we must: we have no more hope today of saving the “newspaper business” than we do the “telegraph business.” What is needed–pronto–is a plan to save the collection and dissemination of the news itself.

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090511/alterman