Tumblelog by Soup.io
Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

November 11 2010


The Newsonomics of journalist headcounts

[Each week, our friend Ken Doctor — author of Newsonomics and longtime watcher of the business side of digital news — writes about the economics of the news business for the Lab.]

We try to make sense of how much we’ve lost and how much we’ve gained through journalism’s massive upheaval. It’s a dizzying picture; our almost universal access to news and the ability of any writer to be her own publisher gives the appearance of lots more journalism being available. Simultaneously, the numbers of paid professional people practicing the craft has certainly lowered the output through traditional media.

It’s a paradox that we’re in the midst of wrestling with. We’re in the experimental phase of figuring out how much journalists, inside and out of branded media, are producing — and where the biggest gaps are. We know that numbers matter, but we don’t yet know how they play with that odd measure that no metrics can yet definitively tell us: quality.

I’ve used the number of 1,000,000 as a rough approximation of how many newspaper stories would go unwritten in 2010, as compared to 2005, based on staffing reduction. When I brought that up on panel in New York City in January, fellow panelist Jeff Jarvis asked: “But how many of those million stories do we need? How many are duplicated?” Good questions, and ones that of course there are no definitive answers for. We know that local communities are getting less branded news; unevenly, more blog-based news; and much more commentary, some of it produced by experienced journalists. There’s no equivalency between old and new, but we can get some comparative numbers to give us some guidelines.

For now, let’s look mainly at text-based media, though we’ll include public radio here, as it makes profound moves to digital-first and text. (Broadcast and cable news, of course, are a significant part of the news diet. U.S. Labor Department numbers show more than 30,000 people employed in the production of broadcast news, but it’s tough to divine how much of that effort so far has had an impact on text-based news. National broadcast numbers aren’t easily found, though we know there are more than 3,500 people (only a percentage of them in editorial) working in news divisions of the Big Four, NBC, ABC, Fox, and CBS — a total that’s dropped more than 25 percent in recent years.)

Let’s start our look at text-based media with the big dog: daily newspapers. ASNE’s annual count put the national daily newsroom number at 41,500 in 2010, down from 56,400 in 2001 (and 56,900 in 1990). Those numbers are approximations, bases on partial survey, and they are the best we have for the daily industry. So, let’s use 14,000 as the number of daily newsroom jobs gone in a decade. We don’t have numbers for community weekly newspapers, with no census done by either the National Newspaper Association or most state press associations. A good estimate looks to be in the 8,000-10,000 range for the 2,000 or so weeklies in the NNA membership, plus lots of stringers.

Importantly, wire services aren’t included in the ASNE numbers. Put together the Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg (though some of those workforces are worldwide, not U.S.-based) and you’ve got about 7,500 editorial staffers.

Let’s look at some areas that are growing, starting with public radio. Public radio, on the road to becoming public media, has produced a steady drumbeat of news about its expansion lately (“The Newsonomics of public radio argonauts,” “Public Radio $100 Million Plan: 100 Journalist Per City,”), as Impact of Government, Project Argo, Local Journalism Centers add more several hundred journalists across the country. But how many journalists work in public broadcasting? Try 3,224, a number recently counted in a census conducted for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. That’s “professional journalists”, about 80% of them full-time. About 2,500 of them are in public radio, the rest in public TV. Should all the announced funding programs come to fruition, the number could rise to more than 4,000 by the end of 2011.

Let’s look at another kind of emerging, non-profit-based journalism numbers, categorized as the most interesting and credible nonprofit online publishers by Investigative Reporting Workshop’s iLab site. That recent census includes 60 sites, with the largest including Mother Jones magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, ProPublica, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and and the Center for Public Integrity. Also included are such newsworthy sites as Texas Tribune, Bay Citizen, Voice of San Diego, the New Haven Independent and the St. Louis Beacon. Their total full-time employment: 658. Additionally, there are high dozens, if not hundreds, of journalists operating their own hyperlocal blog sites around the country. Add in other for-profit start-ups, from Politico to Huffington Post to GlobalPost to TBD to Patch to a revived National Journal, and the journalists hired by Yahoo, MSN and AOL (beyond Patch), and you’ve got a number around another thousand.

How about the alternative press — though not often cited in online news, they’re improving their digital game, though unevenly. Though AAN — the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies — hasn’t done a formal census, we can get an educated guess from Mark Zusman, former president of AAN and long-time editor of Portland’s Willamette Week, winner of 2005 Pulitzer for investigative reporting. “The 132 papers together employ something in the range of 800 edit employees, and that’s probably down 20 or 25 percent from five years ago”.

Add in the business press, outside of daily newspapers. American City Business Journals itself employs about 600 journalists, spread over the USA. Figure that from the now-veteran Marketwatch to the upstart Business Insider and numerous other business news websites, we again approach 1,000 journalists here.

What about sports journalists working outside of dailies? ESPN alone probably can count somewhere between 500 and 1000, of its total 5,000-plus workforce. Comcast is hiring by the dozens and publications like Sporting News are ramping up as well (“The Newsonomics of sports avidity“). So, we’re on the way to a thousand.

How about newsmagazine journalists? Figure about 500, though that number seems to slip by the day, as U.S. News finally puts its print to bed.

So let’s look broadly at those numbers. Count them all up — and undoubtedly, numerous ones are missing — and you’ve got something more than 65,000 journalists, working for brands of one kind or another. What interim conclusions can we draw?

  • Daily newspaper employment is still the big dog, responsible for a little less than two-thirds of the journalistic output, though down from levels of 80 percent or more. When someone tells you that the loss of newspaper reporting isn’t a big deal, don’t believe it. While lots of new jobs are being created — that 14,000 loss in a decade is still a big number. We’re still not close to replacing that number of jobs, even if some of the journalism being created outside of dailies is better than what some of what used to be created within them.
  • If we look at areas growing fastest (public radio’s push, online-only growth, niche growth in business and sports), we see a number approaching 7,500. That’s a little less than 20 percent of daily newspaper totals, but a number far higher than most people would believe.
  • When we define journalism, we have to define it — and count it — far more widely than we have. The ASNE number has long been the annual, depressing marker of what’s lost — a necrology for the business as we knew it — not suggesting what’s being gained. An index of journalism employment overall gives us a truer and more nuanced picture.
  • Full-time equivalent counts only go so far in a pro-am world, where the machines of Demand, Seed, Associated Content, Helium and the like harness all kinds of content, some of it from well-pedigreed reporters. While all these operations raise lots of questions on pay, value and quality, they are part of the mix going forward.

In a sense, technologies and growing audiences have built out a huge capacity for news, and that new capacity is only now being filled in. It’s a Sim City of journalism, with population trends in upheaval and the urban map sure to look much different by 2015.

Photo by Steve Crane used under a Creative Commons license.

October 07 2010


The Newsonomics of sports avidity

[Each week, our friend Ken Doctor — author of Newsonomics and longtime watcher of the business side of digital news — writes about the economics of the news business for the Lab.]

When The Sporting News began publishing, the telephone was barely 10 years old. First published in 1886, just a decade after “Mr. Watson, come here — I want to see you,” a single copy cost five cents (and a year’s subscription was $2.50).

Flash forward a mere 124 years, and Bell’s invention has been succeeded by brick phones, StarTacs, Palms, and the wonder of our age, the iPhone. But it’s the iPhone’s sister, the iPad, that takes us to our updated story. Take a storied, once-down-on-its-heels brand, the newest-fangled technology, and some smart thinking, and you’ve got a set of products and a business model worth studying.
Sporting News now is actually a set of three distinct products:

  • A biweekly sports magazine, its flagship product, which reaches 500,000 readers.
  • A free website — Sporting News Feed — heavy on breaking news, trending topics and lots of sports video.
  • A newer paid product — aimed at tablets and smartphones, but also to web users — called Sporting News Today.

The pricing of the products is intriguing. First off, Sporting News Today is pitched as a “dime a day” product, 30 issues for $2.99 through Zinio. So what was five cents an issue in 1886 is now a dime “an issue” a century-plus on. As of this week, you can now buy the bundled magazine (standalone: $14.97 for a year) and Sporting News Today apps/access for $39.95 a year.

It’s the path to that pricing and those products that’s interesting.

Last week, I participated in a MediaPost-sponsored Online Media Marketing and Advertising (OMMA) panel, along with Jeff Price, publisher of Sporting News, among others. His comment intrigued me and our follow-up conversation provided more details of his work.

Price joined Sporting News as publisher in February of this year, after seven years as first chief marketing officer and then president of SI Digital. He’s taken a hands-on approach to the job, and that seems to be making a difference in how the company creates and tweaks its products. Price is aiming at an important sports segment, those who rank “eight, nine or 10 on the sports avidity scale” and follow at least three sports (of the six covered by Sporting News). Yes, there is such a scale, and it helps measure highest interest, of course. That’s the group Price is targeting, and therein we have a peek into the newsonomics of sports avidity.

From our conversation, here are three takeaways, worth applying more widely:

  • Watch the data — personally. Analytics (see my previous piece on the FT) is important overall, of course. Crunching data on usage, response to offers, and device usage help all publishers tailor their wares. Price took one further step: When the company made a switch to paid access for the Sporting News Today product in early April, it gave users a two-month free trial. Of those that didn’t convert to paid — about 6 percent did, proving the emerging 5-10 percent consensus of who is the target paid audience — Sporting News sent emails to 6,000 of them. Those emails asked why readers didn’t pay up, didn’t convert — and they included Price’s personal e-mail. He got almost 1,000 responses. Those took a week of his time to review, but he learned a lot out of the process that’s now reflected in pricing and product.

Those thousand or so responses divided into three groups: 40 percent who said they wouldn’t pay under any circumstances; 30 percent who said they’d pay, if it were bundled with the print product; and 30 percent who said they’d pay if it were more than the print product, if it gave them more of what the iPad could specifically do with video, data, and overall interactivity. All of that funneled into pricing plans and the tweaking of the iPad product itself.

  • Differentiate the products, reorganize the staff. Sporting News Today launched in 2008 as a free product, one distinctly different from the magazine. In fact, Price estimates that only two percent of the content of Sporting News Today — which promises “30 pages a day, seven day a week by 6 a.m.” — comes from the magazine. It’s increasingly interactive. Price is hiring a new editor-in-chief, one comfortable with a newsroom organized around some shared staffing and then dedicated staffing for each of three products. It’s largely a digital-first operation, but there are lots of moving pieces. “It’s a bit of a Rubik’s Cube,” says Price of the product and business model pieces.

His goal: 250,000 paid subscribers to Sporting News Today by mid-2011; he’s a little less than a tenth of the way there, with a number of strategic marketing relationships to be announced in the next couple of months. He guesstimates that a 25-percent overlap of customer usage may emerge — free website to print magazine to paid digital access — over time.

  • Distinguish yourself from the competition. USA Today Sports is a “snippets” competitor, while Sports Illustrated is more about storytelling, and “ESPN is the 800-pound gorilla in our space.” His plan: Target the busy “commuter, business traveler, and student,” offering a downloadable product so that intermittent connectivity isn’t an issue. The Sporting News position: depth and breadth, covering what moves, in those six sports areas.

How instructive to the news world is Sporting News’ work? Well, we can say that the sports is more entertainment than news, and subject more to entertainment buying habits. But it is news — niched news of, as we’ve learned, high avidity. And that connects us to those we call — you know who you are — news junkies. I don’t know if there’s a news avidity scale (please do tell), but it there is, it’s those who would score 8-plus on it who are the prime prospects for paying for digital news. It’s that 10 percent, plus or minus, of digital readers that all news companies are sighting as they aim for digital reader revenue. So I think the application is fairly direct. We should watch Sporting News, with news in general in mind, and see which models do — and don’t — move into play.

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.
Get rid of the ads (sfw)

Don't be the product, buy the product!