Here's a homework assignment, class. Read the Pew Internet and American Life report on "State of the News Media 2010." It may not be all that new to you, but it's an invaluable update on the perplexing state of America's traditional news media as they try to find a way to survive in an online world.
We thank Jim Horton for leading us to the Pew report on his Online Public Relations Thoughts blog. It used to be that the other paper across town was the only problem. Now it's a worldwide onslaught from online sources of news.
"Essentially," Horton notes, "the news industry is no closer to finding a workable business model than it was last year or the year before. It is not that publishers are dumb. The cliff to climb is a reluctance of online news readers to pay for news and the inability of publishers to make up for it in advertising. It is a double whammy for the industry at a time when mainstream media are losing subscribers and viewers."
"Another nail through the heart of the news industry is a lack of loyalty among online readers. Few have a habit of going to one site for their news. They graze across multiple sites and use aggregators like Google. So, how does one make money from people who won't pay, aren't loyal and insufficient advertising?"
We'd like to think a PR opportunity exists in here somewhere, but we don't like to think of opportunity at the expense of the outlets that have buoyed the PR industry for so long. This is a dilemma we all need to keep exploring out of mutual need. Possibly there's an answer, elusive as it may seem in an era of online news riches.